Source: ‘The Irish Times’
Those socialists in Britain who might regularly read ‘The Guardian’ newspaper, and despair at the wretched propagandistic coverage of the war in Ukraine, should count themselves lucky that that they don’t live in Ireland and avail of the coverage of ‘The Irish Times’.
Unable to contribute to the cause of western imperialism directly, the Irish State has cloaked its contribution in mawkish tones of hypocritical concern, loudly proclaiming that it too supports the war while condemning its inevitable results. Like all western support, from right to left, it considers support for war has nothing to do with its consequences because “Russia started it.’
‘The Irish Times’ faithfully reflects the hypocritical self-righteousness of the Irish State and political establishment. The Russian war is routinely damned and its purported atrocities highlighted but its true horrors, which might include graphic pictures of the dead and dying, are hidden. Even more unsettling, photographs and video of those killed by Ukrainians will not be front page or headline news. War coverage in the West is so routinely censored that its presence is unnoticed.
So imagine my surprise when today’s newspaper includes a column by the historian Geoffrey Roberts, who sets out the dangers of western escalation and its purpose. No doubt the rest of the week will see numerous letters of condemnation.
He notes that the West’s previous red lines on the supply of weapons have been crossed while significant political figures dismiss the possibility of Russian escalation in response. He notes that such escalation ‘would be shocking to those western decision-makers who have become accustomed to the idea that only they can act with impunity when it comes to escalating the Ukraine war.’
Escalation includes main battle tanks and missiles with relatively long-range potential. It also includes direct NATO personnel intervention through intelligence, training and targeting. The provision of main battle tanks will involve significant maintenance support, and possibly NATO tank operators if they are to provide anywhere near their potential impact.
Previously, some left supporters of the Ukrainian state have made a distinction between defensive and offensive weapons and opposed ‘direct military intervention.’ Main battle tanks are clearly offensive weapons provided to Ukraine so it can carry out offensive operations, while missiles already supplied have the potential to hit Crimea, which previously was not simply a province of Ukraine but had autonomous status. Today its population is clearly Russian and is considered by the Russian Federation to be part of its territory. For those claiming justification for the war based on ‘self-determination’ this leaves something of a contradiction.
It is of course open to the supporters of Ukraine to support this state on the grounds that the war as a whole is purely a defensive one, but that does not avoid an existing problem and opens the door to another.
Those partisans of Ukraine who speak of supporting the Ukrainian people have the same problem as someone who recently posted on Facebook ‘victory to the Russian people in their struggle against NATO’. Neither the Ukrainian nor Russian people are fighting this war, although it is they who are dying. They are killing and being killed on behalf of the Ukrainian and Russian states, which are the real parties to the conflict. In neither case is the working class independently organised and fighting in its own interest and for its own objectives.
Either the respective supporters of the Ukrainian and Russian states believe that in this war one of these capitalist states is fighting for the interests of the working class or they can’t tell the difference between a capitalist state and its people, never mind its working class. In neither case can the left supporters of either state be considered Marxist, which as a bare necessity requires the ability to distinguish between a capitalist state and a working class and, having done so, be able to identify and assert their separate and antagonistic interests.
If, on this occasion, they maintain that their interests are the same or aligned they face the question of how such an extraordinary convergence has occurred? In the case of supporters of Ukraine – how did this alignment also include the whole of Western imperialism? Why wouldn’t it happen again and how does this not invalidate Marxism, which teaches the irreconcilable antagonism between the working class and the capitalist state? How often can the working class rely on the capitalist state to defend its interests? Do they know where this idea has led before and, if they do, can they not just do themselves and those of us who oppose this capitalist war a favour and take a short cut to openly repudiating Marxism?
The second, new problem opened up, is that if the character of the war is not to be defined by the infantile argument of who invaded who, then this must widen consideration of its nature to include the cause of the war, including the invasion; the objectives of the warring parties and the political character of these objectives and thus of the war itself. In relation to this the article by Geoffrey Roberts is appropriate:
‘Never has the world witnessed such a proxy war as that being waged in Ukraine by the West, the overarching aim being to cripple Russia as a great power.’
‘In pursuit of this aim the US and other western governments have showered Ukraine with more than $100 billion worth of military, humanitarian and financial aid. Nato has scoured the globe for old Soviet ammunition and weapons systems that can be readily utilised by the Ukrainians. Western financial institutions have seized control of Russian foreign currency reserves and imposed sanctions designed to destabilise the rouble and collapse Russia’s economy. The West is also working to turn Russia into a pariah state internationally.’
‘Without western support Ukraine’s war effort would have collapsed months ago. The continuation of the war has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian casualties. Ukraine’s economy has been laid waste, while millions of its citizens have fled the country, and many more have been displaced internally.’
Roberts is correct that without Western imperialism there would no longer be a war – Ukraine would have negotiated a peace. To therefore pretend that western intervention is secondary is to deny reality.
Roberts presents one potential of the continuation of the war:
‘As Putin creeps closer to some kind of military victory in Ukraine, the voice of those urging western restraint will be needed more than ever. The more territory Ukraine loses, the more casualties it incurs, the greater will be the West’s temptation to take yet another escalatory step towards all-out war with Russia.’