A.Holberg – Leserbrief: Under the headline “Ukraine – No siding with nationalists“ …


Dear comrades,

Under the headline “Ukraine: No siding with nationalists“


Eddie Ford says, „Under these dangerous circumstances of rival nationalisms, with direct imperialist support for one of the players (ie, Kiev), it is absolutely vital that socialists and communists unambiguously stand up for internationalism and elementary working class solidarity.“ Then he goes on to state the sorry fact that, „Alas, this has not been the case. Disgracefully, most left groups have lined up with either one camp or the other – portraying the opposing side as the greater evil or somehow beyond the pale.“

On a rather abstract level there’s nothing here to add. However I have some questions. Eddie Ford also correctly states that the right of national self-determination is not limited to the existing state borders but holds for all the peoples including the Russophone inhabitants of the Donbass, or as at least a certain number of them who want it:

„Novorossiya“. But if we are agreed that their right of national self-determination against the onslaught of the Ukrainian chauvinist forces backed by US/EU imperialism is to be supported, how can we equate these forces with the ones fighting against them in the SE of the Ukraine?

The social reactionary character of at least considerable parts of the „separatists“ is of little doubt. And it is obvious that working class militants have to ideologically fight against Greater Russian chauvinists, let alone the heirs of the ‘Black Hundreds‘. However, their military contribution is unfortunately needed to implement the right of national self-determination of the people of Novarossya just like the Army of the bourgeois Russian Federation was needed to enable the people of the Krim to practice this right.

After all, did the communists of various strands object to the Algerian anticolonial liberation movement on the basis that many of its militants, fighters and leaders were religiously minded nationalists and not progressive? National liberation is a bourgeois right and must not be confounded with social liberation, even if it would be desirable for both to go hand in hand. And while it was true in the 1960s and 70s, when there still was the Soviet Union to get arms from, that then national liberation movements tended to produce propaganda claiming their credentials as socialist, working class organisations or even as Marxists (quickly forgotten after taking power), it is even clearer today, in a period when no camp pretends to be „socialist“ or even „anti-imperialist“, that national liberation requiring military force will have to lean on those forces willing and able to fight militarily and that it is highly improbable that these forces will be dominated by „progressives“, let alone proletarian revolutionaries.

Marxists have to tell the working class that these fighters for national liberation are not at all fighters for its social liberation. They ought, however, not put the social-reactionary forces of the national oppressors on the same footing as the social-reactionary forces of the oppressed nation or ethnic group. So our position towards the forces fighting in the Donbass must be different from our position towards the forces fighting against Al-Assad in Syria, for instance. The latter are engaged in a social struggle, and we have to keep clear of them since we know that they are as bad or even worse than the bloody bourgeois regime of Al-Assad.

That said: yes, we can say that the reactionaries fighting in the Donbass are the lesser evil!