Ukraine

Late on Tuesday, the world was shocked to hear the Polish president’s statement that his country had been hit by a Russian missile (or missiles).

When Russia's defence minister appeared on state media to report that he had ordered a withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River, including from the city of Kherson situated on the east bank, the news was immediately hailed by the western media as a great victory for the Ukrainian army.

If you were to believe Western media and the statements of officials on both sides of the Atlantic, you would get the impression that Ukraine is winning the war against Russia and that it is only a matter of time before Putin is overthrown by his own people. In order to understand what is really happening, first we must tear through the fog of propaganda which surrounds this war. 

In the midst of the ruination of millions Ukrainians’ lives as a consequence of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian parliament has been pushing forward the harshest cuts to workers’ rights in the country’s history. On 1 July the parliament passed law #5371, which – among other things – increases the working week to 60 hours, and permits bosses with less than 250 employees to fire workers in the event of property damage caused by military actions or the absence from the workplace for a period of more than 4 months. This came on the heels of several other laws, which curbed trade union rights, legalised zero-hour contracts, and removed the obligation to pay the salaries of workers

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Yesterday, we reported that president Vladimir Putin had declared a partial mobilisation, after Russian forces were driven into a disorganised rout in the Kharkiv Oblast. In this podcast (recorded a few days before Putin’s announcement), Hamid Alizadeh and Jorge Martin, members of the marxist.com editorial board, discuss the main developments in the Ukraine war, and where the conflict is going.

In the last few days, Ukrainian forces have made significant advances on the Kharkiv front, forcing the Russians into a disorganised retreat. Where did this surprise counteroffensive come from and what is its significance for the war overall?

At the start of July, the Ukrainian courts ordered the closure of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) and the seizure of its assets. The anti-democratic attack is part of a scandalous campaign to crush political dissent and stain the image of ‘communism’ by associating it with Russian imperialism. 

As the war in Ukraine drags on, with the US and British imperialists prolonging the conflict for their own narrow interests, weapons manufacturers are making a killing in extra profits. To end the horrors of war, we must fight to end capitalism.

It is now over 100 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. There is no end in sight to the war. The gung ho statements of the West following Russia’s withdrawal from the areas it had occupied around Kyiv, Sumy, Chernihiv and Kharkiv, have turned into more pessimistic appraisals. Russian forces, through superior artillery, have been advancing in the Donbas, slowly, but relentlessly. Ukrainian losses are mounting. Russia has maintained its income from oil and gas, despite the West’s sanctions, the knock-on effects of which threaten to push the world economy into a new and damaging recession.

Oleksandra Koval, director of the Ukrainian Book Institute (part of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture), has claimed that they will begin working towards withdrawing over 100 million so-called ‘propaganda’ books from public libraries in Ukraine. The books – including the works of the world-renowned writers and poets Dostoyevsky and Pushkin – may be sent to paper recycling centres according to the Minister of Culture and Information Policy, Oleksandr Tkachenko.

“We’re not just at war to support the Ukrainians. We’re fundamentally at war, although somewhat through a proxy, with Russia, and it’s important that we win,” said US representative Seth Moulton during a Fox News appearance. He was perhaps being more frank than others, but the message has been coming loud and clear from official representatives of Biden’s administration. Asked what the US would consider success in the war, Biden’s Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said “we want to see Russia weakened”.

On 9 April, a group called Stand With Ukraine held a small demonstration in London. Despite receiving support from a number of trade unions, only a few hundred people took part. In true Orwellian fashion, this so-called anti-war solidarity demonstration was filled with hair-raising, warmongering rhetoric. Slogans included: “arm, arm, arm Ukraine!”, and participants were reportedly inviting NATO to “call Putin’s bluff”, i.e. to launch a full-blown military intervention and spark World War III.

In a shock announcement, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has told Russian state media: “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy.” In an uncharacteristically angry tone, he accused NATO of fighting a proxy war by supplying military aid to Ukraine, just at a time when western defence ministers have gathered in Germany for US-hosted talks on supporting Ukraine through what one US general called a “very critical” few weeks.

Note from the editorial board: Today we are reproducing a pair of very important articles that blow sky high all the lying western propaganda that has surrounded the war in Ukraine from day one up to the present. The author of these remarkable documents is not a Marxist. Far from it. He is Jacques Baud, a former colonel in the Swiss army and ex-member of the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service. He also worked for NATO, during and after the 2014 Ukraine crisis, following which he participated in programmes related to Ukraine. 

The main peculiarity of the present war in Ukraine is that it has been completely overshadowed by an unprecedented war of information. This has served to generate a lot of heat, but very little light. In fact, its principal objective is not to inform, but to conceal the real situation. In this, one has to admit, it has been highly successful.

The impact of the war in Ukraine will be felt far beyond European shores. With Russia and Ukraine together being responsible for 12% of all calories traded, and natural gas forming an important component in fertilisers, the war is exacerbating food inflation. Coming at a time when many of the dominated capitalist countries have built up massive debts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the war is adding to a perfect storm that will provoke class struggle on a global scale.

We have received this report on the rising repression within Russia, as the “special operation” (i.e. the war in Ukraine) drags on. Even the mildest criticism of the invasion is being shut down, on pain of arrest and imprisonment. Independent news sources and social media platforms are shuttered, and anyone voicing disapproval of the war is labelled a “national traitor.” These measures are a sign of President Vladimir Putin’s weakness, not his strength, and will only cause the masses’ resentment to accumulate. 

Over three million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on 24 February, with the UN declaring the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. There has been an outpouring of sympathy for those fleeing war from millions of people. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people have even offered to open up their homes to those displaced. But the ‘generosity’ of the governments of the West reeks of hypocrisy.