Socialists Should Support the Transfer of Russian State and Oligarchs Assets into Ukrainian Hands!

Contribution to a discussion among socialists on how to strengthen the Ukrainian resistance against Putin’s invasion without lending support to Western imperialism

By Alexey Sedov, Nao Hong (she/they) and Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 15 December 2022, www.thecommunists.net

 

The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and its section in Russia – Socialist Tendency – have supported the national war of defence of the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion from the very beginning. At the same time, we emphasise the dual character of the conflict and the necessity to oppose both camps in the inter-imperialist rivalry between Russia and NATO. We have summarised this internationalist and anti-imperialist position in the slogan: “Defend the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion! Against Russian and against NATO imperialism![1]

On the basis of such an approach, we support the efforts of the Ukraine to acquire weapons from wherever they can such (including from Western states). At the same time, we oppose any political strings which governments of NATO states might attach to such military aid.

We apply our internationalist and anti-imperialist program also to the issue of sanctions. We support workers actions (“workers sanctions“) against Russia as an instrument of international proletarian solidarity with the legitimate resistance of the Ukrainian people. At the same time, we oppose the policy of imperialist sanctions which Western powers have imposed against Russia. We do so not because of any sympathy with Putin or Russian imperialism. But we say that socialists must not support such sanctions because these are an instrument of imperialist Great Power policy in order to weaken their rival. Such sanctions aid NATO imperialism – but not the working class! – at the cost of Russia.

The RCIT’s approach is based on the principle to support any practical step which strengthens the Ukrainians’ war of national defence but, at the same time, to oppose any support for Western imperialists. We want to increase international working-class solidarity and raise internationalist and anti-imperialist class consciousness. At the same time, out tactic is aimed at undermining any feeling of national, cross-class solidarity of workers in Western countries with “their” ruling class. (Needless to say, that we equally oppose Russian sanctions against Western rivals.) Since we elaborated on this issue in much detail in several documents, we are content with such a brief summary at this place. [2]

In this article we want to focus on discussing a specific aspect of the issues of aid for the Ukraine and sanctions against Russia: what should be done with the property of the Russian state and oligarchs in Western countries which, to a large degree, has been seized by governments?

This issue has provoked discussions among socialists, particularly in Russia and the Ukraine. Furthermore, it has gained particular urgency given the dramatic social and economic conditions in the Ukraine as a result of Putin’s devastating missile war against the country’s infrastructure. The following article is a contribution to this discussion.

 

Destruction of the Ukrainian society and Russian property abroad

 

We shall begin by giving a brief overview about the dimensions of the destructions in the Ukraine. For a more detailed overview about the gigantic social and economic losses of the Ukraine since the beginning of the war, we refer readers to another article which we have published recently somewhere else. [3]

Naturally, we can only draw on the publicly available estimation, but they provide a clear approximation to the gigantic scale of devastations of the country’s economy as well as of the society as a whole. The World Bank estimates that the Ukrainian economy will shrink by 35% in 2022, and other estimates predict that the contraction could be as much as 40%. About a quarter of the population is said to live in extreme poverty and this share is expected to increase to 50% by the end of next year.

As a result of the direct effects of the war as well as of the devastating deterioration of living conditions, one-third of the 44 million population has been displaced: 6.5 million within Ukraine and almost 8 million as refugees in other European countries.

No one should have any illusions: given the grim conditions of winter, the widescale destruction of the material basis of the Ukrainian society by the terror bombing of the Russian forces will endanger the lives of millions of Ukrainians!

While the exact amount of damage is difficult to assess, there can be no doubt that it is gigantic. Estimations range from at least $349 billion (World Bank), $700 billion (Kyiv School of Economics) or even up to $1 trillion (Yuriy Gorodnichenko, a Ukrainian-born economist from the University of California).

Bear in mind that all these estimations are based on the level of destruction of the Ukraine until now. Every further month of Russian aggression will inevitably increase the destruction and, hence, the costs for reconstruction!

While Western imperialist governments have given some loans to the Ukraine, there is no doubt that they are using this as instruments to subjugate Kyiv by increasing its financial indebtedness. In 2021, i.e. before the start of the war, Ukraine’s indebtedness was already as high as 69% of its annual GDP. This level has reached now – both because the collapse of the economy as well as new loans – about 83% and is supposed to rise to over 100% soon.

This dramatic development underlines once more why it is essential that socialists around the globe – and particularly in Western countries – campaign for the total cancellation of the Ukraine’s foreign debts. [4]

At the same time, the Russian state and oligarchs store large assets abroad. As it is well-known, such capital export (and illegal money transfer) was highly welcome in Western banks and off-shore destinations for decades. However, this has changed with the acceleration of the Great Power rivalry and the Ukraine War. The U.S. and the EU have frozen some $300 billion in Russian central-bank assets held abroad which amounts to almost half of the bank’s total reserves. In addition, the EU has frozen about $19.6 billion in assets of Russian oligarchs. [5]

 

Socialist tactics on aid for the Ukraine

 

In such a situation, socialists are faced with the question how to deal with such Russian assets. As we stated above, the RCIT strictly opposes any support for Western sanctions against Russia as this is an instrument of the Great Power policy against an imperialist rival. We have no reason to support a policy which makes one Great Power richer at the cost of its imperialist opponent.

Of course, this does not mean that we would advocate a kind of defence of Russia. In case of imperialist sanctions against capitalist semi-colonies (e.g. Gaza, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea) or against (petty-bourgeois or bourgeois) organisations of oppressed people (e.g. Hamas in Palestine) we advocate to break such sanctions. In the case of inter-imperialist sanctions, we don’t defend one side but refuse to support such chauvinist measures of the other side.

But does this mean that we are indifferent on the question if the Russian state or the oligarchs get their frozen assets back or if these are transferred to the Ukraine? Obviously, it would be absurd to take a neutral position on this issue! Russia is an imperialist power which grabs Ukrainian lands and is currently bombing and destroying the country without mercy. [6] The Ukraine, in contrast, is a semi-colonial capitalist country which faces a barbaric assault and imperialist super-exploitation.

In such a situation, socialists are not and can not be neutral. It is necessary to advocate tactics which aid the Ukraine and weaken the Russian aggressor without lending any support to NATO imperialists. Hence, we do not support the expropriation of Russian assets by Western imperialist governments. A socialist deputy in parliament could not support such a bill.

However, we fully support the direct transfer of Russian assets to the Ukraine without any conditions or any intermediate force. The Ukrainian state should send representatives to Western countries in order to facilitate such a transfer. A socialist deputy in parliament should put forward a bill in such a spirit.

Such assets should be used to cover the military expenses of the Ukraine as well as the costs of rebuilding the country. However, they must not be used to repay any debts. Quiet the opposite: socialists in Western countries should call for the immediate cancellation of all debts of the Ukraine. [7]

Furthermore, we call for abolishing of all protectionist measures against Ukrainian commodities. Likewise, socialists in Western countries call for direct and free aid deliveries of food, fuel, generators, necessary raw material equipment, etc. for the Ukraine without any conditions.

Of course, it would be foolish to have any trust in the bourgeois and pro-NATO government of Zelensky. Hence, we advocate that the Ukrainian workers and popular masses take all transferred assets and aid under their control. Such a demand is part of the socialist program of nationalisation of all key sectors of the economy (including the military-industrial complex) under workers control.

Likewise, we advocate that the workers in the Ukraine should control all military and non-military deliveries from abroad.

As long as the Zelensky government remains in power, we demand full public transparency of all financial transactions and spending so that the entire people of Ukraine can see it.

While we advocate such workers control, we don’t put it as a precondition for such material support. It is preferable that a bourgeois government gets material and military support so that it is capable of defending the Ukraine against the Putin’s invasion than that the country becomes a helpless victim of Russian occupation. Likewise, it is better that a bourgeois Ukraine gets access to Russian assets than such property gets back to Putin and the oligarchs or that it remains in the hands of Western imperialists.

We think such a combined tactic concerning Russian assets abroad is best placed to take into account both the necessity to strengthen the Ukraine’s legitimate war of national defence against Putin’s invasion as well as the principle of intransigent opposition against all imperialist powers (Russia as well as NATO).



[1] We refer readers to a special page on our website where more than 150 RCIT documents on the Ukraine War and the current NATO-Russia conflict are compiled: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/compilation-of-documents-on-nato-russia-conflict/. In particular we refer to the RCIT Manifesto: Ukraine War: A Turning Point of World Historic Significance. Socialists must combine the revolutionary defense of the Ukraine against Putin’s invasion with the internationalist struggle against Russian as well as NATO and EU imperialism, 1 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/manifesto-ukraine-war-a-turning-point-of-world-historic-significance/

[2] In addition to the above-mentioned RCIT Manifesto see the following articles by Michael Pröbsting: Ukraine War: Supporting Western Sanctions Is Impermissible for Socialists! Support for the Ukrainian resistance must be combined with consistent anti-imperialism (a comradely critique of LIT-CI), 1 June 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/ukraine-war-supporting-western-sanctions-is-impermissible-for-socialists/; Why Socialists Should Not Support Imperialist Sanctions or the United Nations. A comradely critique of a joint statement of Russian and Ukrainian socialists, 17 April 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/why-socialists-should-not-support-imperialist-sanctions-or-un/; No to Workers Boycott against Russia but Yes to Boycotting the Ukraine? On the support of the PTS/FT for boycott actions against arms shipments for the Ukraine, 26 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/pts-ft-workers-sanctions-against-ukraine/; Can Socialists Support Imperialist Sanctions? The “Fourth International” in the tradition of Pablo and Mandel supports Western sanctions against Russia, 4 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/can-socialists-support-imperialist-sanctions/

[3] See on this Michael Pröbsting: The Gigantic Destruction of the Ukrainian Society, 12 December 2022, http://links.org.au/gigantic-destruction-ukrainian-society. In this article, readers will find the sources for the figures of the destruction in the Ukraine.

[4] We have dealt with this issue already some months ago. See Michael Pröbsting: The Ukraine in the Imperialist Debt Trap. The international workers and popular movements must campaign for the total cancellation of the Ukraine’s foreign debts, 9 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/ukraine-in-imperialist-debt-trap/

[5] Figures on Russian property abroad are taken from Laurence Norman: EU Says It Can’t Seize Frozen Russian Central-Bank Assets for Ukraine, Wall Street Journal, 30 November 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/eu-says-it-cant-seize-frozen-russian-central-bank-assets-for-ukraine-11669827828

[6] The RCIT has published numerous documents about capitalism in Russia and its rise to an imperialist power. See on this e.g. several pamphlets by Michael Pröbsting: The Peculiar Features of Russian Imperialism. A Study of Russia’s Monopolies, Capital Export and Super-Exploitation in the Light of Marxist Theory, 10 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-peculiar-features-of-russian-imperialism/; by the same author: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialism-theory-and-russia/; Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/; Russia: An Imperialist Power or a “Non-Hegemonic Empire in Gestation”? (Reply to Claudio Katz), New Politics, https://newpol.org/russia-an-imperialist-power-or-a-non-hegemonic-empire-in-gestation-a-reply-to-the-argentinean-economist-claudio-katz-an-essay-with-8-tables/; Russian Imperialism and Its Monopolies, in: New Politics Vol. XVIII No. 4, Whole Number 72, Winter 2022, https://newpol.org/issue_post/russian-imperialism-and-its-monopolies/ (the same essay has been republished by International Viewpoint, 21. April 2022, https://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article7618); Once Again on Russian Imperialism (Reply to Critics). A rebuttal of a theory which claims that Russia is not an imperialist state but would be rather “comparable to Brazil and Iran”, 30 March 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/once-again-on-russian-imperialism-reply-to-critics/. See various other RCIT documents on this issue at a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-russia-as-imperialist-powers/

[7] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Ukraine in the Imperialist Debt Trap. The international workers and popular movements must campaign for the total cancellation of the Ukraine’s foreign debts, 9 July 2022, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/ukraine-in-imperialist-debt-trap/

“러시아 국외 자산”, 우크라이나의 수중으로 이전하라!

- 제국주의 침략에 대항하여 반식민지 우크라이나의 저항을 어떻게 강화시킬 것인가를 두고 사회주의자들 사이에 진행된 토론에 붙여

알렉세이 세도프/ 나오 / 미하엘 프뢰브스팅, 혁명적 공산주의인터내셔널 동맹 (RCIT), 2022 12 15, www.thecommunists.net

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혁명적 공산주의인터내셔널 동맹 (RCIT) RCIT 러시아 지부 (사회주의동맹) 전쟁 첫날부터 푸틴의 침공에 대항하여 우크라이나의 민족방위 전쟁을 지지해왔다. 동시에, 우리는 분쟁의 이중적 성격을 강조해왔고, 러시아와 나토 제국주의 세력권 쟁투에서 진영 모두에 반대할 필요를 역설해왔다. 우리는 국제주의·반제국주의 입장을 다음과 같은 슬로건으로 요약했다. “푸틴의 침략에 대항하여 우크라이나를 방어하라! 러시아 제국주의와 나토 제국주의 모두에 맞서자!”[1]

그러한 접근태도를 바탕으로, 우리는 우크라이나가 어디로부터든 (서방 제국주의 국가들로부터도 포함하여) 무기를 획득하려는 노력을 지지한다. 동시에, 우리는 나토 국가들의 정부가 그러한 군사 원조에 붙일 있는 어떤 정치적 단서조건에도 반대한다.

우리는 우리의 국제주의·반제국주의 프로그램을 제재 문제에도 적용한다. 우리는 러시아에 대한 노동자 행동 ("노동자 제재") 우크라이나 인민의 정당한 저항에 대한 국제 프롤레타리아 연대의 도구로 간주하여 지지한다. 동시에, 우리는 서방 열강들이 러시아에 가하고 있는 제국주의 제재 정책에 반대한다. 우리는 푸틴이나 러시아 제국주의에 무슨 동정심을 가져서 그렇게 하는 것이 아니다. 사회주의자들이 그러한 제재를 지지해서는 된다고 우리가 말하는 이유는, 그러한 제재가 경쟁 상대방을 약화시키기 위한 제국주의 대국 정책의 도구이기 때문이다. 그러한 제재는 러시아를 제물로 해서 나토 제국주의를 돕는다. (그러나 노동자계급은 돕지 않는다!). RCIT 접근법은 우크라이나의 민족방위 전쟁을 강화하는 일체의 실제적 조치를 지지하는, 그러나 동시에 서방 제국주의자들에 대한 일체의 지지에 반대하는, 그러한 원칙에 기초해 있다. 우리는 국제 노동자계급 연대를 증진시키고 국제주의·반제국주의 계급의식을 높이고자 한다. 동시에, 우리의 전술은 서방 나라에서 노동자들이 지배계급과의 민족적, 탈계급적 연대감 일체를 약화시키고 무너뜨리는 것을 목표로 한다. (우리가 러시아의 서방 제재에도 똑같이 반대한다는 것은 말할 필요도 없다). 문제에 대해 여러 문서에서 자세히 설명했으므로 여기서는 이와 같은 간단한 요약정리로 그치고 넘어가겠다.[2]

글에서 우리는 우크라이나에 대한 원조 러시아에 대한 제재 문제의 특정 측면을 논의하는 초점을 맞추고자 한다. 서방 나라들에 있는 러시아 국외 자산”, 정확히 말해서 러시아 국가기구와 올리가르히 (과두재벌) 소유자산 서방 각국 정부에 의해 상당 부분 압류된 으로 무엇을 것인가?

문제가 사회주의자들, 특히 러시아와 우크라이나의 사회주의자들 사이에서 토론을 불러일으켰다. 더욱이 우크라이나의 기반시설에 대한 푸틴의 궤멸적인 미사일 공습의 결과로 우크라이나가 처한 극적인 사회적·경제적 조건들을 고려할 , 문제는 특히 긴급한 의제로 나선다. 이하는 토론에 붙이는 글이다.

 

우크라이나 사회의 파괴와 러시아 국외 자산

우크라이나의 파괴 규모에 대한 간략한 개요를 제공하는 것으로 시작해보자. 개전 이래로 우크라이나의 거대한 사회적·경제적 손실에 대한 보다 자세한 개요로는, 우리가 최근에 다른 지면을 통해 발표한 기사를 참조할 것을 독자들에게 권한다.[3]

당연히, 우리는 공개된 추정치에 의존할 수밖에 없지만, 그것으로도 우크라이나 경제뿐만 아니라 사회 전체의 엄청난 파괴 규모에 대한 명확한 근사치에 도달할 있다. 세계은행은 2022 우크라이나 경제가 35% 축소될 것으로 추산하고 있으며, 밖의 추정치들의 경우 최대 40%까지 축소될 있다고 전망하고 있다. 인구의 4분의 1 극심한 빈곤 속에 살고 있다고 하며 비율은 내년 말까지 50% 증가할 것으로 예상된다.

전쟁의 직접적인 영향과 파멸적인 생활조건 악화의 결과로, 4,400 인구 3분의 1 난민이 되었다. 우크라이나 내에 650 , 다른 유럽 나라들에 800 명의 난민이 있는 것으로 집계되고 있다.

누구도 환상을 가져서는 된다. 암울한 겨울철 조건을 고려할 러시아군의 테러 폭격으로 우크라이나 사회의 물질적 기반이 광범위하게 파괴됨에 따라 수백만 우크라이나인들의 생명이 위험에 빠질 것이다!

정확한 피해 규모는 가늠하기 어렵지만 거대한 규모임에는 의심의 여지가 없다. 추정치는 최소 3,490 달러 (세계은행)에서 7,000 달러 (키이우 경제대학), 심지어는 1 달러 (캘리포니아 대학의 우크라이나 출신 경제학자 유리 고로드니첸코)까지 이른다.

모든 추정치는 현재까지의 우크라이나 파괴 규모를 근거로 것임을 유념하라. 러시아의 공격이 계속되는 1개월마다 파괴 규모는 필연적으로 것이고, 따라서 재건 비용도 증가할 것이다!

서방 제국주의 정부가 우크라이나에 일부 차관을 공여했지만, 재정 부채를 늘려 우크라이나를 예속시키기 위한 도구로 차관을 사용하고 있다는 것은 의심의 여지가 없다. 전쟁이 시작되기 전인 2021년에 우크라이나의 부채는 이미 연간 GDP 69% 달했다. 부채 규모는 이제 83% 경제의 붕괴 때문에, 그리고 동시에 신규 차관 때문에 도달했고, 100% 이상으로 상승할 예정이다.

극적인 사태발전은 세계의 사회주의자들 그리고 특히 서방 나라들의 사회주의자들 우크라이나 외채의 전면 무효화를 위해 캠페인을 전개하는 것이 필요한지 다시 강렬히 상기시킨다.[4]

동시에, 러시아 국가기구와 과두재벌은 국외에 대규모 자산을 보관해놓고 있다. 알려져 있듯이, 그러한 자본 수출 (그리고 불법적인 화폐 이전) 수십 동안 서방 은행 역외 투자 목적지에서 환영을 받았다. 그러나 이는 강대국 패권경쟁 가속화와 우크라이나 전쟁으로 바뀌었다. 미국과 EU 러시아 중앙은행의 국외 보유 자산 3000 달러 (중앙은행 보유고의 절반) 동결했다. 이에 더해 EU 러시아 과두재벌의 자산 196 달러를 동결했다.[5]

 

우크라이나 원조에 대한 사회주의 전술

같은 상황에서 사회주의자들은 그러한 러시아 자산을 어떻게 처리할 것인가 하는 문제에 직면해 있다. 우리가 위에서 밝혔듯이, RCIT 서방의 대러 제재를 지지하는 것에 엄격하게 반대한다. 왜냐하면 이것은 강대국이 경쟁 상대방을 겨냥한 제국주의 대국 정책의 도구이기 때문이다. 강대국이 제국주의 패권경쟁 상대방을 희생시켜 강하게, 부유하게 되는 정책을 우리가 지지할 이유가 없다.

물론, 그렇다고 우리가 러시아의 방어를 제창한다는 뜻이 아니다. 자본주의 반식민지 (예를 들어 팔레스타인 가자지구, 쿠바, 베네수엘라, 이란, 북한) 피억압 인민의 조직 (예를 들어 팔레스타인의 하마스) 대한 제국주의 제재의