Provisional Thoughts on What’s Happening in the Ukraine.

Provisional Thoughts on What’s Happening in the Ukraine.

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I have been struggling to come to grips with what is happening in the Ukraine.

Ukraine has lived in the shadow of its “Great Russian Chauvinist” (Lenin) neighbour to the east since the middle of the 17th century. The Ukraine is Russia’s oldest colony just as Ulster is Britain’s oldest colony. Marx wrote that ‘a nation that enslaves another nation can never itself be free’. And yet it is also very clear the EU and US have economic and political interests in the region. And, of course, military intentions through NATO.

Putin is no socialist or “anti-imperialist”. Some on the left – the sectarian left – are painting him as an “anti-imperialist” hero. How do we develop a socialist approach to what is happening in the Ukraine, without falling victim to supporting one predatory power or the other who are using the Ukrainian state or the Separatist militias in the east for their own geopolitical purposes? How do we develop a class approach in this age of globalised capital?

When the opposing armies dismembered Yugoslavia, did any of them articulate the real, material social interests of millions of people in the cities, towns and villages? Was Putin’s annexation of the Crimea an “anti-imperialist socialist” act or a predatory act of self-interest of the Russian oligarchy and state power? Putin will not accept a genuine socialist insurrection in the Ukraine which threatens “Russian” interests.

Already in the south-east, Makhnovist Anarchists are starting to offer resistance. Putin fears that the turmoil threatens to spread beyond into Russia. And if it takes hold in the east, he will start to consider intervention not to “defend ethnic Russians” but rather to try to make certain that the situation in eastern Ukraine is under control and cannot spread into Russia itself.

Meanwhile the EU/US/NATO predators are doing their utmost to bring the whole of the Ukraine into the “western” fold. And backed by the broadcasting and print media, of course. The BBC coverage has been just as rabid as RT.

The Ukraine is not immune to the global crisis of the capital order. Proletarian class movements must emerge in response to this crisis. They will have a greater degree of freedom to operate without the interference of both the “Great Russian Chauvinist” and the EU and US capitalist powers. Both stand as the excutioners of such movements. In this regard, and in my opinion, Fascism is not the real historical danger here.

The deepening of this global crisis – which is structural for capital – is mediating the unfolding situation in the Ukraine. It is an intractable crisis and unresolvable within the parameters of the global capital order. Can fascism find solid, unshifting ground in such a distinct and qualitatively new historic phase of development? I think not. Fascism cannot resolve this unfolding structural crisis for capital. It can only be resolved beyond the parameters of the capital order itself.

The historic structural crisis of capital cannot possibly form stable ground for the establishment of Fascism as we saw in the 1930s because such a regime finds its historical presupposition outside such a structural crisis, in an age of conjunctural displaceable crises. And this, no matter how much Ukraine becomes a “western” or NATO client state.

This widening and deepening crisis of the whole global capital order points towards a growing radicalisation of the proletariat globally. And if we can, for the moment, envisage a draconian austerity response as a condition for IMF support for a “neo-liberal” regime in the Ukraine, then this will further intensify the tendency towards the radicalisation of the class in the Ukraine.

A few fascists thugs on the street with minor and insignificant influence in a neo-liberal government does not a fascist regime make. Fascism – or call it by any other name – presupposes a whole series of complexed historical conditions fundamental to which is a crisis of capital which is conjunctural and displaceable in its internal contradictory dynamic i.e. which is not structural, deepening, insoluble. The unfolding, global, widening and deepening structural crisis of the capital order cannot form a stable basis for the establishment and maintenance of fascist rule.

The age of displaceable conjunctural crises is over. What is manifest now is a “depressed continnum” reflecting the deepening of the structural crisis of capital. These ‘conjunctural’ and ‘structural’ phases are historically constituted as qualitatively different stages in the historic crisis of the capital relation. The crisis of capital today is essentially structural and not conjunctural. Prior to the 1970s, capital’s crises were essentially displaceable and conjunctural. The contradictions of this structural crisis are no longer displaceable as in a conjunctural crisis. They are insoluble, deepening and intensifying on a global scale.

The separation between the historic phases of conjunctural and structural crisis of capital is a determinate separation between qualitatively different phases of development of the historic crisis of the capital relation. No amount of abuse of the dialectic can turn one into the other or vice versa; can turn a racehorse into a carthorse or vice versa.They are qualitatively different grades of horse just as they qualitatively distinct phases of development of the crisis of the capital system. A determinate phase is simply that. One which is determinately different from the previous one. We have now entered the determinate phase of the structural crisis of capital in which the historically antecedent and determinately-posited conjunctural character of capital’s crises has disappeared. There will be “ups and downs” in the evolution of this structural crisis but it will remain a structural – and not a conjunctural – crisis. Here is the life of this person as adolescent and here is that life as adult. Beyond a certain point, the person is no longer an adolescent but an adult.

Meszaros writes that….

“The world of capital weathered also the storm of its ‘Great Economic Crisis’ of 1929-33 with relative ease, without having to face a major hegemonic confrontation from socialist forces despite the mass suffering caused by this crisis. For the fact is that ‘Great’ as this crisis was, it was very far from being a structural crisis, leaving an ample number of options open for capital’s continued survival, recovery and stronger than ever reconstitution on an economically sounder and broader basis. Retrospective political reconstructions tend to blame personalities and organisational forces for such recovery, particularly with respect to the success of Fascism. Yet, whatever the relative weight of such political factors, one should not forget that they must be assessed against the background of an essentially defensive historical phase. It is pointless to rewrite history with the help of counter-factual conditions, whether they concern the rise of Fascism or anything else. For the fact that really matters is that at the time of the crisis of 1929-33 capital actually did have the option of Fascism (and similar solutions) which it no longer possesses today. And objectively that makes a world of difference as far as the possibilities of defensive and offensive action are concerned.” [Meszaros, Beyond Capital. sec 18.1.2., p. 678]

To understand why Meszaros asserts that Fascism is no longer an option for capital today is, simultaneously, to grasp the deepest roots of capital’s historic structural crisis today. I know this conception may ‘sound strange’ to some “Marxists” – especially those still clinging to old sectarian dogmas in the deepening depths of the unfolding crisis like a group of shipwrecked mariners clinging to a large piece of worm-eaten driftwood – but I recommend that they do investigate it if they haven’t already done so.

The notion that Fascism can arise, triumph and sustain itself out of the present crisis in the Ukraine is the re-articulation of a conception (a misconception in this re-articulation) that capital has the historical room for manouevre to deploy fascism in order to displace the ever sharpening contradictions of its unfolding structural crisis in the same ways – and deploying the same methods – in which it did with its past conjunctural crises. For example, in the 1930’s.

But above all we need to think about what is actually happening in the Ukraine and place the interests of our class at the forefront. And not simply trot out old mantras and incantations about the “main enemy being at home”, “anti-imperialist regimes, struggles” etc, which are the leitmotifs of the sectarian groups. We have to learn to think as communists without the formulaic proclamation.

Shaun May

August 2014



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