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

A War Against Their Own People

Jan 15, 2024

This article is translated from the January 10, 2024, issue #28993 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The Ukrainian army’s shelling of the large Russian border town of Belgorod on New Year’s Eve was presented by the Western media as a new event.

In fact, Ukrainian missiles had already been targeting the town for months. But this was the first time they had targeted the town center, resulting in so many civilian casualties: 25 dead, including children, and around a hundred wounded.

The Kyiv authorities couldn’t admit that, by striking such a blow, they wanted to make people forget the failure of their counter-offensive to retake the 22% of territory held by the Kremlin’s army. So, they presented it as a response to the Russian bombardment of Ukraine, with both sides accusing each other of pursuing a policy of terror for almost two years.

Thus, on January 1, when he addressed his greetings to the nation from a military hospital, Putin claimed: "We are striking with precision weapons the places where decisions are made, where soldiers and mercenaries gather, other such places, military installations above all." As if the countless collapsed, burnt-out apartment blocks we’ve been seeing for months, from Kyiv to Kharkiv, from Kherson, taken and retaken, to Donetsk, capital of the pro-Russian Donbass, didn’t provide appalling, large-scale proof that the leaders and generals of each side don’t give a damn about the population opposite! It’s worth pointing out that they also don’t care about the fate of their own population, if only because the blows inflicted on the opposing side always lead to reprisals, in an escalation of horror.

As Putin reminded us on January 1, he promised to step up his army’s so-called targeted strikes. In the same sentence, he claimed, “We do not have Ukraine as an enemy,” but it’s clear who the Ukrainian working classes, like their sisters in Russia, have as enemies. They are the Russian bureaucracy, of which Putin is the leader, and the Ukrainian privileged classes rallied to the imperialist camp, of which Zelensky is the current representative.

On the Russian side, this manifests itself in the incessant levying of men sent to the slaughterhouse and in the repression of all those who refuse or criticize Putin’s war. The consequences are also colossal cuts in social budgets (and therefore in workers’ living standards), wage and pension freezes as inflation rages, and the Kremlin’s priority being the military budget and war production.

In Ukraine, the government has also decided to strengthen the military-industrial complex and arms production, which has tripled in 2023 and is set to increase sixfold in 2024. At the same time, it is stepping up mobilization, as the general staff needs 500,000 new recruits. Hence, the intensified hunt for draft dodgers has led to scuffles in the streets of Kharkiv, Odessa, and Chernivtsy. Any recalcitrants caught are beaten up or even tortured, as in Ternopol, where the incident was filmed and investigated by the courts.

The Rada (Parliament) is discussing the possibility of exempting certain categories of conscripts, including the 300,000 employees of the military-industrial complex. It is also considering exempting men who pay a high level of income tax ... and, therefore, have ties to the same business circles as deputies and ministers!

The streetcar driver who earns the equivalent of 300 euros won’t be so lucky. On the other hand, like other workers, he too will pay the price for the diktats of Ukraine’s Western guardians. The IMF has rejected the Ukrainian government’s 2024 budget, demanding that it find almost a billion euros in additional revenue. This means subtracting them from the little that remains of spending that is useful to the population, as there is no question of touching the 6 billion euros that this year will go to arms production and repair, mainly to large Western corporations.