Russian soldier in Crimea.
March 1, 2014 ---- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal ---- The OpenLeft.ru site in Russia has published the following statement on the military moves towards Ukraine by Russia in the Crimea region. Translation thanks to Op Thoughts Blogger.
Crimea: Not 'ours', and not 'yours'
Crimea has found itself unlucky to be at the intersection of Russia's imperialist ambitions, and the rough nationalist politics of the "new" Ukraine. The "Open Left" declares: the movement for self-determination in Crimea is more important in its significance than both, imperialist games and nationalist fervour.
Today, as never before, it is necessary to call things by their proper names: what is happening these hours and days in the Crimea is a classic act of imperialist intervention by the Russian state. It is an intervention marked by stupidity, cowardice, and inconsistencies; naturally, these are the very same defining features of Vladimir Putin's regime. By observing the events that have transpired so far, we can see that the pressure against Ukraine is following a script: two weeks ago, the Kremlin, without thinking of the consequences pushed [former Ukraine president Viktor] Yanukovich towards a violent clearing of the Maidan Square. A week ago, the Russian government supported the failed "separatist" congress of disoriented bureaucrats in Kharkov, and now it has deployed -- the rather forgotten over the last ten years -- "Crimean card".
The first two scenarios have failed: the first, quickly and bloody, the second -- almost immediately and shamefully. It is difficult to say how precisely the Crimean scenario will fail, but there is no doubt at all that it will. The Russian government has shown on a number of occasions its willingness to quickly abandon its allies. In the same manner, from the very first events in the Crimea, the Kremlin has positioned demarcation lines for a possible future withdrawal. Despite the fact that the Russian military has taken over a number of strategic facilities, and is in de facto control of the airspace over the peninsula, its official position continues to emphasise that what is happening is an "internal conflict", combined with planned military exercises. At the same time, Victor Yanukovich cannot count on strong support from Russia, given his rather strange status of simultaneously claiming to be the legitimate president, while also an international criminal, giving press conferences in Rostov. The new Crimean leadership also finds itself to be a hostage of ongoing developments, given it was elected through the direct participation of Moscow.
The question that will be posed on the May 25 referendum opens up a field of new opportunities for future behind the scenes political haggling -- with both the imperialist powers (the EU and the United States), and the new Ukrainian government -- now controlled by the Kremlin's old oligarchic partners from the circle of Yulia Timoshenko. A "Yes" to the referendum question (which apparently seems to be the sentiment of the vast majority of the Crimea's Russian-speaking population) would -- in its most radical variant -- bring a return to Crimean autonomy, based on the example from 1992. Such an outcome, under contemporary conditions, would transform the region in to a permanent source of internal tension in the Ukraine, and would guarantee the impossibility of its entrance in NATO for the foreseeable future.
Crimea would find itself in a state of persistent Russian economic and political dependency, while at the same time its citizens would be deprived from the basic, formal rights of Russian citizens. If Russia succeeds in using its "Crimean card" to effective blackmail its senior Western partners, and achieve a redrawing of spheres of influence in the Ukraine as a whole, then nothing will change in the Crimea (except, perhaps, the situation of Sergei Aksenov and his "Russian Unity" colleagues, who will probably have to move to Rostov or Barvihov).
In either case, the referendum's outcome, as well as the fate of the Crimean population (not only the Russian, but also Ukrainian and Tatar), will be decided behind closed doors. Its fundamental right for self-determination will be trampled on, until Crimea, and Ukraine as a whole, remain an arena for clashes between outside forces --- whether from the West, or East. The slogan of "federalising" the country --- used for irresponsible electioneering by Party of Region activists --- would actually be a just solution for the Ukraine, with its multinational (in the cultural, national and language sense) population. The federal principle in a multi-national state would be a democratic means for conflict resolution, if it guaranteed genuine equality and freedom to make decisions on the local level. However, Ukraine's newest history shows, that in a weak state this slogan means nothing other than the division of spheres of influence, between more powerful neighbours, and not its elimination. Actual democratic federalism would require a development of the Ukrainian revolution in a direction towards genuine power of the people, and not the further usurpation of power by cosmetically renewed elites and nationalists.
The Crimean problem was not invented by the Russian government a week ago. The tens of thousands of people who took to the streets in Sevastopol, correctly perceived the hostile signal from Kiev, where the majority of victors in the Supreme Rada voted to repeal the law on regional languages. Despite its weak arguments and juridical imperfections, this vote had an obvious symbolic meaning. In a country standing at the doorstep of economic catastrophy, the new rulers decided to cover up the impending wave of "unpopular reforms" with new portions of nationalist speculation. For "Svoboda" ultra-rightists, who initiated this decision, the question of language is part of a large scale reactionary program for an ethnic state, a vision capable of burying Ukraine in its current makeup. This decision, with the background of ongoing binges by "Right Sector" militants --- whose chief media partner is consistently the Russian television network --- became an important factor for the deterioration of the political situation.
The "Crimean scenario" will not last long. Kremlin elites will play this card quickly. The patriotic vuvuzelas --- who are currently being blown by prepared teams of propagandists --- will fall silent. "Office hawks" --- currently launching appeals on various social networks for the return of "our Crimea" (as it happen during the 2008 war in Georgia) --- will also fall silent. They will quickly shift to more interesting and fresh themes of discussion. In turn, Crimea's residents --- Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar --- will be left with their own problems. They continue to live in a depressed region, fully dependent on tourists and military bases, pressed between Kiev's right-wing politicians, the "Russian defenders" of local oligarchs, and the cynical maneuvers of the Russian state, which could not care less for the rights and freedoms of 143 million of its own citizens, much less for those of the Crimea.
Today, it is very difficult to estimate and predict the actual consequences of the Kiev Maidan. It has brought the revenge of oligarchic clans that were suppressed by Yanukovich, while creating an unbelievable (for the post-Soviet space) victory for a mass people's movement from below. The Maidan has opened the gateway for the activisation of right-wing creeps, while awakening a huge mass of people to political life, who have for the first time experienced the ability to be in control of their own lives. This diversity of possibilities can lead to progressive social changes, or the victory of extreme right-wing reaction. The final decision must undoubtedly remain in the hands of the Ukrainian people --- not only in Kiev and Lvov, but also in the Crimea and Donetswk.
No war With Ukraine!
A statement from the Russian Socialist Movement
March 1, 2014 -- War has begun. With the aim of protecting and increasing the assets of the oligarchs in Russia and in Yanukovich's coterie, Russia's leadership has undertaken an invasion of Ukraine. This aggression threatens catastrophic consequences for the Ukrainian and Russian peoples -- most especially for the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Ukraine's southeastern industrial regions.
For Ukraine, this will also mean an escalation of ethnic conflicts; for Russia, a consolidation of dictatorial power, repression, and chauvinist hysteria, with which the ruling elite will be able to neutralize mass anger against a backdrop of deepening economic crisis. We share the concern of residents of the southeast over the nationalistic tendencies of the new authorities in Kyiv.
It is, however, our firm conviction that freedom will be won not by Putin's tanks, but by self-organization and the people's own struggle for their civil, political, and socio-economic rights.
It goes without saying that the peoples of Ukraine have a right of self-determination, of full autonomy and independence. But what we are seeing today has nothing to do with the democratic will of the masses. It is a brazen and cynical act of Russian imperialism, aimed at annexing foreign territory and converting Ukraine into part of Russia's protectorate.
Today, the struggle for freedom in Russia is a struggle against the foreign policy adventurism of the current regime, which seeks collusion in forestalling its own end. The RSD calls on all sincere left and democratic forces to organize anti-war protests. Our demands:
NO RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN WAR! NO PROVOCATIONS TO BLOODSHED IN UKRAINE!
NO PITTING AGAINST ONE ANOTHER OF THE PEOPLES OF UKRAINE AND RUSSIA!
NO INTERVENTION BY THE ARMIES OF RUSSIA OR ANY OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE AFFAIRS OF CRIMEA!
FREEDOM FROM DICTATORIAL ACTS AND PEACEABLE SELF-DETERMINATION FOR THE PENINSULA'S RESIDENTS!
YES TO THE UKRAINIAN WORKERS' STRUGGLE AGAINST OLIGARCHS AND CORRUPT OFFICIALS! NO TO ETHNIC CONFLICTS!
[The Russian Socialist Movement is the result of the merger of the Russian section of the Fourth International and the former affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International group.]