Paul Murphy states on four occasions that Ukraine is a former colony, for example, that ‘the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a brutal imperialist invasion of a former colony is clear.’ Repetition gives the impression of the relevance of the concept of national liberation and anti-colonial war, except of course, we are informed four times that Ukraine is not a colony. So, if it’s not a colony it must be an independent capitalist state, in which case Lenin’s policy of self-determination obviously cannot apply in the way it is assumed it must.
The outcome of believing that some principle of self-determination applies to every capitalist state in a war, perhaps as long as it finds itself up against a more powerful adversary, could only promise future support for one capitalist state after another. The possibility of an independent working class position is permanently lost. Ironically, both those who support Ukraine and those who support Russia (because it is defending itself and China against the US) surrender working class politics and just pick a different poison.
The ’reality’ of the Russian invasion he draws attention to – the death, suffering and destruction of war – does not lead to support for the Ukrainian state whether presented as synonymous with its people or not. The way to deal with the reality of this obvious tragedy is to oppose the war, oppose the Russian invasion, and oppose its never-ending continuation promised by the Ukrainian state and their imperialist supporters’ demand for victory. This is the position that this blog has argued from the start.
In opposing those who do not support the Ukrainian state, Murphy says that these people ‘by declaring that western capitalism has already robbed Ukrainian people of social and national rights . . . effectively attempt to cover up their own denial of the rights of the Ukrainian people to self-determination.’ But if it is true that the Western powers have, through their intervention, denuded Ukraine of its rights then what independent role is this state now playing; how could it have become anything other than a tool of Western imperialism, and if this is so how on earth can it be supported?
Murphy accepts that ‘The Russian invasion of Ukraine cannot be divorced from the ongoing conflict between the US-led NATO alliance and Russia and its alliance’ but if this is the case then, given these geopolitical forces involved, this is what defines the character of the war. It is not therefore in the interests of either the Ukrainian or Russian working class that it continues.
But this is far from the position of those on the left supporting the war for whom the victory of Ukraine is the objective, an objective only achievable if it continues to fight, no matter what forces the more powerful Russian state throws at it. Even if Ukraine with western imperialist support was able to achieve their improbable victory, it would involve the occupation of Crimea and Donbas against the wishes of the majority of its people, make Ukraine a NATO member, and allow the stationing of large conventional forces and nuclear weapons that would threaten Russia.
Whoever thinks that this will bring peace and stability probably still believes the Versailles Treaty was a good idea, that NATO really is a defensive alliance, and that Ukrainian ultra-nationalism will be satisfied. Unfortunately, if you already support a reactionary capitalist state that has armed its native fascists; sought the unlimited support of western imperialism; supported a regime that has demanded no-fly zones and ‘pre-emptive strikes’ on Russia that would lead to World War, then your illusions in the fruits of their victory is entirely consistent with this reactionary logic. So why the attempt to support Ukraine and oppose its NATO allies, without whom it would already have collapsed?
Paul Murphy correctly notes that the weapons going to the Ukrainian military ‘which is increasingly integrated into NATO . . . are not being transferred by western imperialism out of concern for the Ukrainian people’s rights, but in pursuance of its own interests – which are not those of working class people.’ Again, if this is the case, how can those who are wielding these weapons be pursuing any other interest than those of the imperialist powers providing them?
The interests of US imperialism is to neuter Russia as a means of surrounding and subordinating China, and which – through the sanctions directed at Russia – also hobble the European Union as its largest economic Competitor. The lengths it is prepared to go to are illustrated by its destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines that cut off Europe from cheaper gas supplies and make it more dependent on much more expensive US gas.
Already European industry is closing and looking to relocate production. The muted response from western media would not have occurred had Russia, for some inexplicable reason, decided to blow up its own pipeline and future source of revenue, but is another perfect example of the censorship that defines western media coverage of the war. How is the victory of Ukraine and US imperialism in the interests of European workers, unless you think a permanent cost of living crisis is a good idea?
Why on earth should anyone believe that there is also an identity of interests between the Ukrainian working class and US imperialism, and that the ever-increasing reliance and subordination of the Ukrainian state to imperialism will not be at its expense? Already, even pro-war Ukrainian socialists complain about the effect of western imperialism on the country, through IMF demanded austerity and privatisation. Yet their subordination to the Ukrainian state leaves them supporting the war and defending the opportunity for its intensification.
This left supports ever-increasing military and financial support by imperialism while flying the kite that this should not be paid for – that the debt of the Ukrainian state should be cancelled. The potential altruistic intentions of imperialism are given another opportunity to disappoint as the pro-imperialist logic of their position works itself out. Pretending to be based on ‘reality’ they require a belief in the incredible to make any sense.
Paul Murphy does not endorse some of these woeful illusions but support for the Ukrainian state requires going down this road, unless the contradictory nature of his characterisation of the war is resolved correctly. He too calls for cancellation of the debt while noting that ‘the Western powers . . . have no intention of releasing Ukraine from debt bondage.’
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