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Proletarian issue 65 (April 2015)
Ukraine: Donbass resistance forces junta into humiliating retreat
The Kiev regime’s winter offensive was supposed to see off the people’s anti-fascist militias; instead, it is they who have been chased out in short order, and with their morale at an all-time low.
The British army, fresh from participating in provocative Nato ‘exercises’ in Ukraine, has now gone back in, in a supposedly ‘advisory’ capacity.

This brings Britain into lockstep with the US, which is due to begin its own ‘training exercises’ there shortly, and highlights the frustration of Anglo-American imperialism over the repeated failure of its fascist proxies in Kiev to bring Ukraine lock, stock and barrel under imperialist control.

Meanwhile, contradictions are growing within the imperialist camp itself. Germany and France have refused to send lethal weaponry to Kiev and given only lukewarm support to further sanctions against Russia – a trade partner which they can ill afford to lose.

And whilst Cameron may derive a false sense of security from sheltering under Obama's wing, the reality is that imperialism is taking the British people into the most direct confrontation with Russia since 14 imperialist armies were pitted against the fledgling Soviet Republic in the war of intervention that commenced in 1918.

Winter offensive collapse

The welcome rout of Kiev's short-lived winter offensive by the self-defence forces of the Donbass followed much the same pattern as the earlier attempt to impose jackboot rule last summer. In both cases, the Nato-backed junta, which has been illegally foisted onto the people of Ukraine, had a massive advantage in both numbers and equipment.

But having thrown everything into a frontal assault, sown death and destruction on a huge scale and uprooted at least a million people from their homes, the fascist regime was ultimately defeated by the people’s resistance.

So how could this have happened? The BBC will tell us, with no scrap of evidence, that it was the secret hand of the Russian army which achieved this marvel.

The truth is much simpler, however. The resistance forces are fighting a people’s war, a just war, and a war against fascism. And they are fighting a demoralised enemy comprising a motley combination of bullied conscripts and crazed volunteers (the latter inspired by the vile fascist tradition whose great ‘hero’ was the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera).

These present-day Banderistas would prefer to forget how their great ‘heroes’ (backed by the Nazis) were comprehensively routed, just as they themselves (backed by Nato) are likewise staring catastrophic defeat in the face.

The militias of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, by contrast, are made up of volunteers dedicated to the defence of their homeland and the struggle against fascism.

They adopt flexible, guerrilla tactics and take inspiration from the anti-fascist struggle of their Soviet partisan forebears. This is what has sustained the resistance through even its darkest hours, and what has enabled it to prevail over an enemy so much stronger in numbers and weaponry.

The resistance forces have generally declined the invitation to meet the enemy head-on, preferring instead to let him rush ahead willy nilly, overstretching supply lines and rendering thousands of enemy troops vulnerable to encirclement and neutralisation by mere hundreds of resistance fighters.

Coming hard on the heels of the liberation of Donetsk airport from enemy control, it was the creation of one such ‘cauldron’ near the strategically important city of Debaltsevo, trapping 8,000 of the junta's forces, that ended with the rout of the invaders, sending the junta scurrying back to the negotiating table.

Inter-imperialist splits

On paper, much of the latest ceasefire agreement (‘Minsk 2’), hammered out in the Belarussian capital, reads just like the last one (‘Minsk 1’): withdrawal of heavy artillery, ceasefire, negotiation on autonomy for the Donbass region. Yet much has changed. The speed of the winter offensive’s defeat stands in marked contrast to the long and bloody struggle that preceded Minsk 1. And economic crisis has in this time further deepened in Europe, compounded by the economic blowback to the EU’s economy from sanctions against Russia.

Splits in the imperialist camp have also deepened. Whilst Cameron and Obama were engaged in ‘loud thinking’ about running guns to the fascists and sending in the marines, German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande were busying themselves with Russian President Putin’s peace initiative. Only once ‘Minsk 2’ had been signed did US Secretary of State John Kerry creep back to damn it with faint praise.

Meanwhile, panic and division continue to mount in Europe over the unrelenting (and Minsk notwithstanding) efforts of the US and its British junior partner to advance further down the road of outright confrontation with the Russian Federation.

Hollande has been tying himself in ever tighter knots over whether to notch up brownie points with Washington by refusing to supply Russia with two Mistral helicopter carriers (as previously agreed and paid for) or whether to stick by France's contractual obligations and assert some degree of independence from the US. The French president is currently trying to fudge it, saying the ships will be delivered when certain “preconditions” relating to the Ukraine are met.

Moscow's position remains clear cut: kindly deliver on contract or refund our money. With crisis continuing to rage in Europe, Hollande is understandably loath to kiss away the €1.2bn deal.

For her part, Germany is giving short shrift to pleas from Nato to join its new open campaign to supply lethal weaponry to the Kiev junta. An article in the German newspaper Der Spiegel recently suggested that Merkel's administration views as “dangerous propaganda” the wild talk emanating from such Nato leaders as Commander Philip Breedlove.

Confronted by the general's hysterical ranting about the people's militias, supposedly with Russian help, preparing “over a thousand combat vehicles” and possessing “sophisticated air defence” and “battalions of artillery”, Germany's own spy service was tasked to check the figures. Their research revealed “just a few armoured vehicles”.

The suspicion in Berlin is that such falsified information is being disseminated in order to sabotage the peace process initiated in Minsk, in which Russia, together with France and Germany took the initiative – peace talks which Der Spiegel reminds its readers were dismissed as “Merkel's Moscow stuff” by Washington's attack-dog, Victoria Nuland (she of the infamous “fuck the EU” phone call). (‘Germany slams Nato European commander’s comments on Ukraine as “dangerous propaganda” – Spiegel’,, 8 March 2015)

Whilst none of this bodes well for a Europe-wide coalition of those willing to confront Russia head-on, it is clear that Washington still nurses the cynical hope that, by dangling the promise of $40bn in IMF loans over the next four years in front of the junta's collective snout, it can keep the war going indefinitely – even with a thoroughly crippled economy.

Britain’s official contribution to the US’s war in Europe may as yet be relatively small, but there is no doubt that a significant section of our ruling class is backing it to the hilt.

While Cameron speaks soothingly of a mere ‘75 British soldiers’, posted far from the front line and providing only medical, logistical, intelligence and infantry ‘support’, workers would do well to remember that, in these days of privatised warfare, there will by now also be an extensive network of ‘unofficial’ spies, mercenaries and private contractors on the British and US payroll.

Cameron’s escalation of hostilities, coming at the very moment when resistance forces were withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line as required by Minsk 2, effectively gave notice that Britain intends to stick with the US warmongers, distinguishing herself thereby from fainter hearts (or wiser heads) in the Nato ranks.

By sending troops to Ukraine, British imperialism is taking a major, grave and dangerous step towards a possible war with Russia. Such a war would have catastrophic consequences not only for British workers, or even just for Europeans, but for people all over the world.

Support the resistance

When ‘protesting’ against Britain’s other wars of national oppression, neither the trade unions nor the anti-war movement have yet been prepared to advance beyond timid demands to ‘bring the troops home’, and for ‘welfare not warfare’. Most of the cowardly ‘leaders’ of our working-class movement have never dared to raise the essential point that British workers have a duty to give active solidarity to those who are standing up against the violence being exported by British imperialism.

These leaders have refused to give full support to the forces of resistance, and refused to organise the workforce to disrupt and sabotage the war machine at home. But when we neglect these duties towards our brothers and sisters abroad, we are also weakening our own ability to fight back against capitalist austerity at home.

So it felt like a breath of fresh air when the RMT union put up a resolution in support of the anti-fascist resistance in the Donbass and got it passed at last year’s TUC conference – thus making it official TUC policy. Demonstrations and meetings in solidarity with the Donbass resistance immediately sprang up in London, Bristol and elsewhere.

For the moment, these healthy developments remain on a small scale and mostly symbolic, but they are a tiny chink in the carefully-constructed separation wall that divides workers in the imperialist homeland from their oppressed and struggling brethren abroad.

Let the unions now turn that TUC policy from a pious hope into a concrete reality by organising a campaign of total non-cooperation with the war that Anglo-American imperialism is preparing against Russia.

Let media workers refuse to go on churning out the endless vilification of the anti-fascist resistance and of Russia. Let workers in the armed forces refuse to go to Ukraine in support of a neo-Nazi junta. Let armaments and transport workers black all war materiel destined for the Ukraine.

In short, let workers remember the power they have, and learn to use it! The lesson is urgent.

> German slams Nato European commanders comments on Ukraine as dangerous propaganda, Russia Today, March 2015
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