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Ukraine: Nothing to celebrate. On the recognition of the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics

Thursday 31 March 2022, by siawi3

Source: https://www.nowarleft.com/spichka

Left Against the War

Nothing to celebrate. On the recognition of the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics

Wednesday 23 February 2022,

by SPICHKA Kolektiv

(This article was published on the 23rd of February before Russian intervention in Ukraine.)

President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian citizens with a statement: the government had recognized the independence of the Luhansk & Donetsk People’s Republics. His speech became a breaking point in the long-term crisis in Donbass. Finally, after eight years of suffering, hardships, and permanent fear, Eastern “non-Ukrainians” have received a formal security guarantee.

This political move by Russia was expected to stir patriotic fervor within the country, comparable to the euphoria surrounding the accession of Crimea in 2014. But it didn’t happen. On the contrary, most ordinary citizens strongly condemned the incursion. However, the government apologists opined that the operation should be considered an “ultimatum to the West” and implied that “Putin hadn’t abandoned Russian people in Donbass.” Meanwhile, some on the left rushed to congratulate the people of Donbass, saying they would no longer have to tolerate “Ukrainian nazis” and die from all the shelling.

Indeed, now they will enjoy Putin’s “stability” instead.

President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian citizens with a statement: the government had recognized the independence of the Luhansk & Donetsk People’s Republics. His speech became a breaking point in the long-term crisis in Donbass. Finally, after eight years of suffering, hardships, and permanent fear, Eastern “non-Ukrainians” have received a formal security guarantee.

This political move by Russia was expected to stir patriotic fervor within the country, comparable to the euphoria surrounding the accession of Crimea in 2014. But it didn’t happen. On the contrary, most ordinary citizens strongly condemned the incursion. However, the government apologists opined that the operation should be considered an “ultimatum to the West” and implied that “Putin hadn’t abandoned Russian people in Donbass.” Meanwhile, some on the left rushed to congratulate the people of Donbass, saying they would no longer have to tolerate “Ukrainian nazis” and die from all the shelling.

Indeed, now they will enjoy Putin’s “stability” instead.

A new buffer state

The news is contradictory. It’s difficult to make definitive conclusions about the intentions of the parties and the aftermath of the conflict. An article of a few pages will not be enough to investigate this history thoroughly. We won’t focus on the significance of the “decommunization of Ukraine” for the government like Russian nationalists, and pro-government propagandists do.

Based on the recent news reports, we will discuss how this conflict will affect the population as well as comment briefly on how some leftists reacted to this issue.

The situation in the region remains unstable. The hostilities between pro-Russian militias and the Ukrainian army are becoming more violent. The Federation Council of Russia has already approved the use of armed forces in Donbass. Putin says that the Russian military may clash with the Ukrainian one. Regardless of whether the conflict escalates or ends with a peace agreement, Donetsk and Luhansk will suffer the fate of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, becoming the buffer zone that separates Russia from a troublesome neighbor.

In spring 2021, the authorities of the Donbass region handed over the assets of the major steel, chemical and coal enterprises to Russian businessman Yevgeny Yurchenko. This person is the board member of the PJSC United Aircraft Corporation — a Russian aerospace and defense corporation. He also served as the deputy governor of the Voronezh region in 2018. In October, Yurchenko planned to increase steel production and take control of other enterprises within LPR & DPR. In November, shortly after that, Putin signed a decree on providing humanitarian support to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. As a result, the products from the region began entering the Russian market freely.

Factually, what’s happening right now is that the ruling class is securing its economic achievements through military means.

Local workers should not expect that the Russian oligarchs will not exploit them because of their national identity or the region’s martial law. Instead, it’s more apt to expect continued exploitation under the watchful tutelage of “little green men” (or “polite people” as some call them in Russia).

As the chairwoman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, said, “for Ukraine, Donbass is about territory, but for Russia, it is about people.” The record-breaking death rates in Russia, previously unseen since World War II, add a new meaning to her words.

Russian imperialism knows well how to incorporate “troublesome” territories. A few years ago, our comrade Vladimir Priboy wrote about integrating separatist Chechnya into the national economy. With the support of federal forces, Russian monopolies installed a puppet government and started sucking out resources out of the republic.

In Chechnya, Moscow imposed strict military control in response to the population’s resistance and Islamist insurgency. In Donbass, a similar scenario is possible. The living standards of working people have seriously decreased as compared to 2014. Strikes break out sporadically, which inconveniences the Russian business in extracting profit.

If the situation gets out of hand, the authorities could follow the patterns of the Chechen “reconstruction.” Nothing would stop them from implementing harsh policies in response to workers’ outrage. The government will justify its actions with “martial law” and an “unstable environment.”

Russian capitalists have long had their eyes on the Donetsk coal basin and the chemical and metallurgical industry in Luhansk for a long time. Today, the working-class movement in Novorossiya is spontaneous and incapable of successfully confronting the organized forces of capital. The exploitation could take extremely predatory forms.

On the other hand, Ukraine has enough stakes in Donbass to fight for it. After losing control over these territories, Kyiv has had to buy coal for its power stations from Russia. The Russian businesses likely sold that same Donbass coal at higher prices to Ukraine. Last November, Moscow stopped supplying anthracite coal to Ukrainian plants. It’s been leading to an energy crisis and paralyzing the country’s economy, which had already resulted in protests.

Economic impact

Another critical question is what awaits Russians after the recognition of insurgent republics. Unfortunately, the life of ordinary citizens will not become any better, neither in Russia nor in Ukraine or the Donbass republics. On the contrary, Kremlin’s policy will cause new sanctions from Western countries.

All the “costs” associated with this risky venture of the Russian capital will become the people’s burned. The ministers will not dig deeper into their own pockets to find money to rebuild Donbass. According to the government of the LPR, rebuilding will require at least 1.5 trillion rubles (almost 18 billion dollars).

Hard times may be ahead for the oil and gas industry of Russia. Germany has already declared that the certification of Nord Stream 2 is suspended. This will significantly reduce the Russian state budget fueled by petrodollars. The first cuts in the budget to expect will be in the social spending sphere: healthcare, education, pension funds.

Let us assume Europe ceases energy cooperation with Russia. This would hit the vast amount of workers employed in the gas & oil industry quite hard. Companies would start sacking many employees and cutting wages since there would be no need to maintain a large workforce.

If Germany does give up on Nord Stream 2, the Russian capital will face difficulties because Western Europe is the leading consumer of our oil and gas. Losing this market would be disastrous for the Russian energy industry.

The situation in Donbass gives us the impression that Russian imperialism won’t calm down and is bent on continuing its expansion.

Is the takeover of Ukraine possible? The rhetoric of the Russian government has become very aggressive & hardline. So such a scenario can’t be dismissed. Given the plummeting rating of the Russian president, a “small victorious war” could potentially fix internal problems. However, it isn’t easy to judge whether our oligarchs are ready to take this step. Until recently, they have cooperated with Ukrainian business people without issue despite the tensions between the states.

What about the left?

After Russia’s recognition of DPR & LPR within the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the gunfire in the area didn’t cease. On the contrary, both sides continue accumulating arms while civilians die under the storm of projectiles. And yet, some Russian left-wing activists are celebrating the “peace” that the bayonets of the Russian military bring.

They repeat the rhetoric of patriots and nationalists expressing the ruling class’s interests. Pompous words abound: “the ice has been broken, and now we came closer to the resolution of the Donbass conflict.” Some go even further: “... only the complete inclusion of Novorossiya into the Russian Federation can fully ensure the rights of workers in Donbass”.

It’s already clear that the Kremlin’s charity will not structurally alter the material conditions of the working class of the recognized republics. The left, who have welcomed Russian political moves, see no contradiction in the fact that Moscow only decided to recognize these territories now. If it had happened eight years ago, the number of victims would have been much lower.

It turns out that Donetsk and Luhansk are just bargaining chips broken out only when it benefits the ruling class. Such politics say a lot about the “peaceful” intentions of the Russian government. To celebrate this temporary lull means to approve the actions of the regime.

According to the OSCE reports, the number of victims in Donbass has been decreasing every year. However, the new redistribution of territories will drastically reverse this trend if a big war breaks out.

Those on the left who support the current “peace” in Donbass essentially justify Russian imperialism. They have nothing to do with communists.

Nothing to celebrate

For thirty years now, post-Soviet republics haven’t been able to recover from the collapse of the formerly united country. National conflicts are still erupting between former union republics. None of these conflicts has pushed workers towards solidarity.

The current conflict is no exception. The partition of territories between bourgeois states only deepens the division of workers, decreases people’s living standards, and makes the regimes more severe on both sides. Such conflicts are the grist for the mill of nationalism.

Soon the bitter experience will prove to workers of Donetsk and Luhansk that there is no difference between Russian and Ukrainian capitalism and that the policy of either of the sides has nothing to do with people’s interests.

The only thing left for us is to educate people exhaustively and thoroughly about the complexity of the current situation. The recognition of independence flavored with Putin’s lecture on decommunization does not make things any easier for communists. Reactionary attitudes will only intensify. Now we have nothing to counter them with.

Let’s not despair. Let’s not self-chastise. No matter how gloomy the future looks, we should keep doing what needs to be done. Create Marxist circles. Analyze reality and study theory. Forge ties with workers.

We have a lot to do.

Kolektiv Spichka

Left Against the War