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

The Bloody Fire Sale

May 1, 2023

When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to the United States back in September, he symbolically rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange via video stream and declared that Ukraine was “open for business,” with more than $400 billion in “investment options”.

Blood for Oil and Gas

Sure enough, in mid-April, Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state gas company, announced that it had met with some of the biggest U.S. oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Halliburton, that are aiming to take over big parts of the country’s oil and gas industry.

Currently, Ukraine is the second largest producer of natural gas in Europe. And it is aiming to increase that production. According to a report in the Financial Times, the Ukrainian government is planning on bringing in these companies to drill for vast offshore natural gas deposits in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea, which is currently under Russian control. This oil and gas grab will no doubt raise the stakes in the ongoing war with Russia.

So, the same giant U.S. companies that profited so greatly from the U.S. war in Iraq by gaining control over Iraqi oil fields that had previously been under the control of the Iraqi government—at a cost of millions of lives—are now taking advantage of another bloody war in order to increase their holdings and fatten their profits in Ukraine.

The Black Earth

Up for grabs is also Ukraine’s rich and plentiful agriculture.

Ukraine is known as the “breadbasket of Europe,” encompassing one-third of all existing agricultural land in the entire European Union! And Ukraine’s fertile black earth is among the largest producers in the world of barley, wheat, and sunflower oil. Thirty percent of the world’s sunflower oil is produced in Ukraine.

Up until the early 1990s, this land was owned by the government. But once the Soviet Union fell apart and a new Ukrainian government emerged, all this changed. Under pressure from the U.S. and other capitalist governments, the government of Ukraine moved to privatize much of Ukraine’s farmland. This resulted in the growing concentration of land in the hands of a few extremely rich oligarchs.

By 2001, there was so much anger and disgust in the population against the corruption and privatizations, the Ukrainian government was forced to impose a moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners. But that didn’t stop big multinational agricultural companies from continuing to gain control over Ukraine’s agriculture. According to one report, by 2016, ten big multinationals gained control over 15 million acres of Ukrainian farmland.

Finally, in 2020, one of the conditions that the International Monetary Fund set for extending a big loan to the Ukrainian government was the gradual ending of the moratorium on the sale of Ukrainian farmland, which the Ukrainian government accepted.

These owners include big financial companies, such as the Vanguard Group, BNP Asset Management Holding, and Goldman Sachs-owned NN Investment Partners Holdings. The fifth largest landholder in the country is a U.S.-based private equity fund called NCH Capital, which controls the holdings of a number of large U.S. pension funds, foundations, and university endowments.

Ukrainian “Independence” Brought to You by BlackRock

This U.S. imperial resource and profit grab in Ukraine will only increase in coming years. In December 2022, Zelensky held a video conference with billionaire Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, in order to announce that he was bringing in BlackRock in order to “coordinate the efforts of all potential investors and participants in the reconstruction of our country, channeling investment into the most relevant and impactful sectors of the Ukrainian economy.”

This means that the Ukrainian government has essentially privatized and outsourced its economic policy to BlackRock, one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

No, the U.S. government’s aim in the Ukrainian War is not “to help the Ukrainian people,” supposedly to support Ukrainian independence and sovereignty, as U.S. officials and the news media always say. No, it is only to impose the domination of the biggest U.S. capitalists, to increase their profits and power—at the cost of millions more lives.