A necessary correction of our assessment of the early phase of the “anti-fascist” Uprising in the Eastern Ukraine
by Petr Sedov, RCIT Russia, July 2019, www.vk.com/rcit1917
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On Correcting the RCIT’s Position in the First Months of the Ukraine Civil War in 2014
Introduction by the RCIT’s International Secretariat, 13 July 2019
The following article of our Russian comrade Petr Sedov elaborates the nature of the civil war in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine in the very early phase. It provides valuable information which has led the RCIT to correct its position.
Until now, the RCIT considered the uprising in Donbass in the first few months until summer 2014 as a primarily spontaneous popular movement against the threatening discrimination by the pro-Maidan government in Kiev. Hence the RCIT lent critical support to this movement in the first few months – until the Russian imperialist state intervened openly on the side of the Donbass rebels from summer 2014 onwards. From that moment on the RCIT considered the civil war as reactionary on both sides and took a defeatist position on both sides. (We have elaborated this position in a number of statements as well as a pamphlet “The Uprising in East Ukraine and Russian Imperialism”, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/ukraine-and-russian-imperialism/)
However, as comrade Petr Sedov demonstrates, we lacked at that time important information which led us to a one-sided view. While the Putin government and the Russian army orchestrated from the beginning the annexation of the Crimea, Moscow indeed wavered until summer 2014 and preferred an “autonomy” solution for the Donbass within the Ukrainian state. However, there was an ultra-reactionary faction of the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie (represented by the Oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, the GRU officer Igor Girkin/Strelkov and the ideologue of the semi-fascist Eurasian movement, Aleksandr Dugin) which strongly pushed from the very first moment for a military intervention of Russia in Donbass. While the RCIT was aware of this extremely aggressive faction of the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, it under-estimated the degree of control it exercised over the movement in Donbass from the beginning. In fact, the spontaneous popular character of the rebellion was rather a subordinated element.
Therefore the RCIT corrects its position in retrospect and concludes that Marxists could not have provided any critical support at any moment neither for the annexation of the Crimea nor for the “rebellion” in Donbass.
Finally, we want to express our appreciation of the fruitful discussion which has been initiated by our Russian comrades and which has helped us to improve our understanding of the Ukraine Civil War. It is an example showing the importance of building an international organization which enables mutual enrichments of understanding and a collective improvement of our experience.
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Until now, the RCIT has considered the uprising in Donbass in the first few months until summer 2014 as a primarily spontaneous popular movement against the threatening discrimination by the pro-Maidan government in Kyiv. Hence, the RCIT lent critical support to this movement in the first few months – until the Russian imperialist state intervened openly on the side of the Donbass rebels from summer 2014 onwards.
Contrary to some claims of pro-Russian social-imperialist “leftists”, the RCIT’s change of position in autumn 2014 was not an opportunist adaption to the NATO offensive. It was rather the result of a Marxist methodological approach. We can see this in a statement dating to April of 2014 that RCIT explicitly states criteria to abandon support of “supposed” spontaneous rebellion.
“12. The democratic uprising in the east is another validation of RCIT’s position that every democratic and national movement has to be thoroughly studied, and must not automatically be viewed simply as a proxy in the intensifying inter-imperialist rivalry. In a world dominated by imperialist monopolies and states, it is unavoidable that these great powers will try to utilize national and democratic struggles to advance their influence. However, one has to analyze concretely whether or not a given movement has become totally subordinate to and a proxy of an imperialist power. Given that the development of movements is determined by the living laws of class struggle, they can naturally also change their character. If, for example, Russian troops would invade the Eastern Ukraine, the local uprising would lose its popular character and become a proxy of Russian imperialism. In such a situation, revolutionaries could no longer support the rebellion.” [1, our emphasize]
It is true that any movement shall be looked at the totality of all forces which are involved in a given struggle and identify the dominant forces or nature of their politics. For instance, a petty-bourgeois force in a semi-colonial country can lead a just war against an imperialist power by using military assistance of foreign forces, including instructors or sending arms. Trotsky explicitly stated it. Nevertheless, if there is a political subordination of such petty-bourgeois movements to an imperialist power, it becomes a proxy force and the “liberation” struggle becomes transformed into a reactionary, imperialist war. Under such circumstances, Marxists can no longer support such a petty-bourgeois force. Otherwise, we would support a reactionary war of one imperialist power vs. another.
Thus, the RCIT published a lengthy document in October 2014 which recognized that by summer the civil war had become as reactionary on both sides. Consequently, it changed its tactics and took a defeatist position on both sides.
While the Putin government and the Russian army orchestrated from the beginning the annexation of the Crimea, Moscow indeed wavered until summer 2014 and preferred an “autonomy” solution for the Donbass within the Ukrainian state, which was pointed out even in RCIT materials.  Later Girkin himself confirmed it in his illustrative interview with Starikov (another reactionary pro-Russian politician). 
“As we have already explained, the uprising in east Ukraine was a spontaneous process. Later, numerous politicians and hundreds or even thousands of volunteers arrived from Russia. Were they all under the command of Putin? No, we don’t believe that this is the correct explanation, as could be seen in various incidents. For example, on 7 May President Putin called for a de-escalation of the Ukrainian crisis and announced that he will “ask the representatives of Southeast Ukraine [who] support federalization to delay the referendum planned for May 11, to create conditions for a dialogue.” However, the leader of the People’s Republics replied on the same day that they, with “all due respect,” rejected Putin’s “advice” to postpone the referendum or begin any “dialogue with Kiev.” [2, our emphasize]
Or: “Another obvious proof of their not simply being Putin’s tools is the permanent lack of unity in the policies adopted by the republics’ leaderships, constituting in fact a chaotic lack of centralization. Instead of unity we repeatedly witnessed open rivalry between different leaders and militias. All this has lead to repeated resignations, arrests, and new appointments. In addition, there have been numerous reports about incompetent militia leaders who caused many soldiers’ death. This is clear proof that the Peoples’ Republics were not being centrally managed by Moscow.” 
The Role of Strelkov/Girkin
However, there was an ultra-reactionary faction of the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie (represented by the Oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, the GRU officer Igor Girkin/Strelkov and the ideologue of the semi-fascist Eurasian movement, Aleksandr Dugin) which strongly pushed from the very first moment for a military intervention of Russia in Donbass. Animated by the imperialist spirit of Tsarist Russia glory, Strelkov pushed for extensive war with Ukraine and proclaimed its importance to avoid another 1905. It is a genuinely insane spirit, which shocked even such reactionaries like Starikov and Mironov during their discussion with Girkin. [3, 4]
While the RCIT was aware of this extremely aggressive faction of the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie [1,2], it underestimated the degree of control it exercised over the movement in Donbass from the beginning while the spontaneous popular character of the rebellion was instead a subordinated element[3,4]. Girkin openly stated that without him, such escalation would not be possible. 
"If our unit hadn't crossed the border, everything would have fizzled out — like in [the Ukrainian city of] Kharkiv, like in Odessa," Strelkov, who uses that nom-de-guerre meaning "Shooter" to replace his last name Girkin, was quoted as saying.
"There would have been several dozen killed, burned, detained. And that would have been the end of it. But the flywheel of the war, which is continuing to this day, was spun by our unit. We mixed up all the cards on the table," he said.»
On Borotba and its relations with the Kremlin
We must also correct our assessment of Borotba. While it is correct to oppose the oppression by the bourgeoisie, we shall point out that we have made a mistake by not recognizing their reactionary role as well.
“It is therefore urgent for socialists – including Borotba – to draw the necessary conclusions from this and to fight on two fronts: against the reactionary right-wing regime in Kiev which is a puppet of US and EU imperialism and against the right-wing Great Russian chauvinist leadership of the Donbass republics which is a puppet of Russian imperialism.” 
It was revealed that Borotba did receive money from Surkov (Putin’s right-hand man) and some of their leading “comrades” publicly stated that he had no problems with it. [7,8] Albu, deputy leader of Borotba in Odessa, expressed his support for a Russian intervention and later joined the «Prizrak» Battalion, which despite whitewashing by Stalinists, was led by insane pro-Russian nationalist Alexei Mozgovoi as pointed in our recently published book “Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry”. [9, 10] Thus, we shall correct ourselves and proclaim that Borotba was an active agent of Kremlin under left disguise and not a «socialist» organization.
Therefore the RCIT adjusts its position in retrospect and concludes that Marxist could not have provided any critical support at any moment neither for the annexation of the Crimea nor the “rebellion” in Donbass.
 И.Стрелков vs Н.Стариков "ЦЕНТРСИЛЫ / СИЛАЦЕНТРА", Нейромир-ТВ, 22.01.2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G04tXnvKx8Y
 И.Стрелков vs Б.Миронов "КРЫМНАШ / НАМКРЫШ", Нейромир-ТВ, 15.12.2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aScGX_RWb20
 Anna Dolgova, Russia's Igor Strelkov: I Am Responsible for War in Eastern Ukraine, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2014/11/21/russias-igor-strelkov-i-am-responsible-for-war-in-eastern-ukraine-a41598
 «УКРАИНСКИЕ ЛЕВЫЕ» ИЗ ПАРТИИ «БОРОТЬБА» ОКАЗАЛИСЬ РУЧНЫМИ КУКЛАМИ КРЕМЛЯ, https://newsonline24.com.ua/ukrainskie-levye-iz-partii-borotba-okazalis-ruchnymi-kuklami-kremlya/
 Левые деньги Кремля: объединение “Боротьба”, Олег Выговский, https://antikor.com.ua/articles/125804-levye_denjgi_kremlja_objedinenie_borotjba