The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Populations Taken Hostage

Jan 23, 2023

This article is translated from the January 19th issue, #2842 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The images of the Dnipro apartment building collapsed on its inhabitants by a Russian missile (which Moscow denies) are frightening and are shown on all the television channels.

The number of dead, missing and wounded is also frightening: they are civilians, especially workers, because this city, the former Dnipropetrovsk, is a very large industrial center in east-central Ukraine.

The city seemed far from the fighting. Until recently, the civilian casualty statistics that Kyiv publishes did not even mention the region, unlike Kharkiv, which tops the grim picture, and Donetsk, in the Moscow-held Donbass, which follows close behind. Not far away and both densely populated, but located on either side of the front line, these cities have seen, are seeing or are likely to see killings like that of Dnipro, so much so that the leaders of the opposing camps have no concern for the population.

From Putin, head of a bureaucracy that oppresses and exploits the Russian population, this seems obvious. He, the high bureaucrats, the oligarchs who are linked to them, and the generals who are conducting this war on the Russian side are doing it with the skin of the Ukrainians but also with that of their own soldiers, whom they are sending to massacre and be massacred. The mobilization of 300,000 men recalled in September has already been largely consumed in the fire of the fighting, to the point that there is more and more talk that the army, a great devourer of men, will demand 500,000 more in the near future.

As far as the Ukrainian leaders are concerned, we have been told for months that they are on the “right side,” since they have chosen to be the advanced point of NATO and “our” governments toward the east, against Russia. They would thus support the camp of democracy. The same one, no doubt, that they have supported in wars against the Algerian people, the Vietnamese people and so many others, from Afghanistan to Iraq, passing through all the African countries that France plunders and where its army supports the plunderers that are the big French capitalist groups and the local dictators who serve them.

With such sponsors in “democracy", the Ukrainian bureaucrats and oligarchs as well as Zelensky do not have to be ashamed of their own politics, nor of making their people pay for their desire to move from the Russian sphere of influence—which has been theirs since the end of the Soviet Union—to that of the great powers of the world bourgeoisie, led by the United States.

Zelensky and the Ukrainian well-to-do knew what this meant: dismantling social rights, opening the country wide to Western firms that had come to plunder its resources and exploit its labor force. Before the war, Zelensky had pursued this policy so well that a large part of the population saw him as an enemy.

This policy, which was dictated by the interests of the major Western groups and imperialist powers, also involved the risk that the Kremlin would seek to prevent it by force of arms, in order to force Kyiv to compromise.

The American and Western European leaders have made Ukraine and its population take this risk. The Ukrainian leadership has done so by bombing civilians in Moscow-held areas and by imposing martial law elsewhere.

The Ukrainian leaders have also allowed the companies to push on the little that remained of social rights, to make profits at any price, notably in energy by extorting the population, and to impose miserable wages. They have reduced unemployment benefits to 90 days and 180 euros maximum, while 30% of workers are officially unemployed. They have also entrusted the bosses with the task of sending military summonses to their employees. Meanwhile, the employers complain in the press that workers only want to work illegally so as not to risk being sent to the front.