“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
May 12, 2014
This article is from the May 9th, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
Day after day, Ukraine plunges deeper into civil war. The Ukrainian far-right militias and the pro-Russian militias have between the two of them taken the population hostage, made worse by the Ukrainian army’s operations.
Where is this deadly cycle leading? Toward punitive actions against those who don't speak the “right language” or who raise the “wrong” national flag? Toward dividing up Ukraine by drawing a border across the country, separating cities, families, and friends? Toward a total bloodbath, like what happened in Yugoslavia twenty years ago?
The population of Ukraine has everything to lose by tearing itself apart in these nationalist clashes.
The Russian government's propaganda is disgusting, but that of the European media is just as dangerous. The media denounces “Putin’s shadowy hand,” but have little to say about Washington, which has operated under the table for years to bring Ukraine into its economic, political, and military orbit.
Today, both the U.S. and European politicians support a provisional government in Kiev that includes pro-Nazi ministers. They have no qualms about relying on the most reactionary forces in society. Like Putin, the imperialist leaders are war criminals responsible for what is happening in the Ukraine.
The Ukrainian situation also mirrors the reactionary and nationalist wave that is sweeping the entire European continent. At the same time the elections to the European Union parliament are under way, the parties are playing the card of nationalist withdrawal. Some parties appeal to regionalist or xenophobic feelings. They gleefully see these elections as a chance to launch outrageous assaults of chauvinism and nationalism.
The different populations of Europe have plenty of reasons not to feel themselves represented by the European Union in its current form. Since the earliest formation of Europe, the Greeks and Hungarians have been preyed on by the French and German banks and multinational corporations. They have seen E.U. bureaucrats compel them to abandon even the weak social protections they had in place. They have seen an international economic crisis condemn them to massive unemployment. Their respective national governments, their own banks and bosses, haven’t treated them any better.
The working class is in a good position to see that it can expect no benefit from European Union institutions. In more than 60 years, the only law passed to promote equality between the sexes has granted women the right to work overnight, while the right to have an abortion is still not guaranteed in all E.U. countries. And a Europe-wide minimum wage set at the level of the highest current national minimum has never even been on the table.
But yet again, the national governments have not done any better! Whenever they bring up the rights of workers or the unemployed, they always aim to bring everyone to the same level – as low as possible.
The nationalists make scapegoats out of the European Union, foreigners, and immigrants. They distract the working class from the fight that it is in their own interest to make, the one against the bosses, their greed, and their profits. Besides changing nothing about the bosses' exploitation, nationalism adds arbitrary attacks to the mix, against those who happen to have the wrong nationality, who don't speak the right language, or who observe a different religion than others.
The events taking place in Ukraine show that nationalism is a fatal trap that can quickly turn against the population. All of those, from Odessa to Paris, who seek to pit workers against one another, are our enemies. We must not let this poison of division sink in!