Analysis Eastern Europe

1st Congress of the ISL: Resolution on the countries of Eastern Europe (Ex Soviet Union)

By International Socialist League

Considering that:

  • Eastern Europe encompasses 21 countries. It is a region in permanent change since the fall of Stalinism. It is a region in which there were and are processes of struggle and political processes in different countries, with advances and retreats in the correlation of forces between classes. Beyond this reality, this resolution focuses on three countries: Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
  • In the countries of Eastern Europe, since the fall of the former USSR, the process of capitalist restoration has advanced, initiated by the Stalinist bureaucracy and continued without exception by all its successors from the government and regime of each country. The social and democratic living conditions of the great majorities continue to be bad and worsen with each capitalist crisis. Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have different political and socio-economic situations. However, there is also a general similarity in the current moment. Despite the obvious failures of the bourgeois authorities of these countries, their complete inability to counteract Covid-19 and improve the living conditions of workers and the people; the bourgeois regimes of the three countries have advanced in capitalist restoration, they have achieved relative stability and defeated social and political oppositions. Beyond the different rhythms, there were and are struggles, though partial and uncoordinated due to the treacherous political and union leaderships. In Russia and Belarus, the liberal bourgeois opposition that shows itself as the replacement of Putin and Lukashenko did not prevail; it was unable to coordinate, it suffers repression and the imprisonment of its main leaders.
  • In the Russian Federation, the Vladimir Putin regime has recovered from the mass protest movement associated with the arrest and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny (January-February 2021), maintaining its power, impunity and social support. In Belarus, the Alexander Lukashenko regime defeated the mass movement of the massive demonstrations against the fraudulent results of the presidential elections of August 9, 2020. In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky can be considered to have beaten the broad grassroots social movement “Stop the Tariff Genocide!” which mobilized widely during the winter and spring of 2021 and created a serious danger for the bourgeois power.
  • These “victories” of the authorities over the mobilizations and demands of workers and peoples are accompanied by an increase in political repression against opposition forces and workers’ organizations, attacks on freedom of expression and other elementary democratic and social rights. However, it would be mistaken to consider the processes of struggle liquidated. In the first place, because the social and democratic needs of the working people were not satisfied. Moreover, they deepened with the world crisis of the capitalist economy and the consequences of the pandemic. Secondly, because the world situation, even in the midst of the health crisis, was marked by great rebellions and popular uprisings that impacted millions of people. In perspective, they are most likely to repeat, spread and take root in the mass movements of countries that are currently further behind or have suffered defeats. It cannot be ruled out that the processes be revived or that there be uprisings in the context of the current world situation.
  • This resolution addresses partial aspects of similarities and differences between the regimes of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, with regard to the policies they apply, their relationship with the mass movement and with the different expressions of imperialism. However, it is necessary to continue exchanging opinions, specifying aspects and studying to arrive at a more precise characterization of the Eastern European regimes, in terms of their genesis and perspective.
  • In Russia, Putin methodically introduced his personal friends to the highest level of the ruling class and privileged them in state affairs. His policy was associated with the active intervention of the state in forming the capitalist class itself. Some great oligarchs of the Yeltsin era were repressed (Berezovsky, Khodarkovsky, Gusinsky). Others, who were already close to Putin or swore allegiance to him, took a place in the oligarchic stratum (Sechen, Rotenberg, Deripaska, Usmanov). This situation of conditional stability in the heights of power could be supported for a long time, but the international economic sanctions caused by the annexation of Crimea in 2014 directly affected the interests of Russian capital and caused significant damage to Putin’s model of capitalism.
  • Putin has not managed to reduce the dependence of the Russian economy on the international trade of hydrocarbons (gas, oil, products of its processing), which is controlled by the circle closest to the president, the oligarchic elite. Significant segments of Russian capital are dissatisfied with the country’s economic isolation from foreign markets due to international sanctions. They are interested in making some kind of smooth transition from Putin’s “Bonapartism” to a new format of state power that takes into account the economic and political interests of a broader segment of the capitalist class.
  • At the peak of the confrontation with the mass movement in support of Alexei Navalny, significant segments of the pro-Putin ruling bourgeois party “United Russia” tried to enter into a dialogue with the protesters, fearing the escalation of street protests. It is quite possible that Navalny’s “miracle cure” in a German hospital was the result of these contradictions in the ruling class. And they, in turn, express themselves and feed back into the contradictions and competition of various influence groups in the Kremlin administration. In Russian political circles, the ironic saying that “there are many different towers in the Kremlin” is now more popular than ever.
  • In Russia there is a so-called “generational syndrome,” which also took place in the Belarusian protests. Putin began to perform the duties of president by decision of Yeltsin on December 31, 1999. A whole generation of Russians, who grew up in conditions of undisputed and undemocratic power, is waiting for change. The personification of the street protest in the winter of 2021 was not so much in terms of support for Navalny as in terms of hatred of Putin.
  • Russia’s main left-wing parliamentary power, the post-Stalinist Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), led by Gennady Zyuganov, has been incorporated into the capitalist power system for decades. The CPRF has been working to “vaporize” popular discontent within the country and actively support Putin in his aggressive imperialist foreign policy. In the winter of 2021, the CPRF also supported the regime de facto by urging the masses to refrain from participating in “liberal protests” (as the mobilizations for Navalny were called).
  • The Russian working class had no particular illusions in the bourgeois politician Navalny. However, the call by the CPRF and its small Stalinist satellites for workers to abandon democratic protests was a weakly disguised support for Putin’s regime. This call has even caused some movement and ferment within the Communist Party, where various young regional leaders attacked the old Zyuganov leadership. The almost 19% vote received by the Communist Party in the recent parliamentary elections of September 17-19, 2021, showed that the working class is looking to the left, not a liberal alternative to Putin’s regime. And, on the other hand, the internal contradictions within the CPRF between its former conservative bureaucratic wing and the younger generation of party officials have significantly intensified.
  • Before the events of winter 2021 it seemed that the Putin regime was more stable than ever, and the opposition of the liberal right and the left was pushed back into marginalization or incorporated into the Kremlin. But recent events have shown that Putin’s regime is no longer as stable as it seemed. And the broad popular masses and, above all, the working class are not willing to put up with such “stability” either.
  • In Belarus, Lukashenko’s state capitalist regime, which relies on outright police violence and a powerful bureaucratic state apparatus, has received a long-awaited respite. Through massive political repressions against opposition workers and activists, as well as through the open and peremptory support of the Russian Federation, the regime succeeded in quelling the wave of street protests. It also attacks the leaders, popular activists and workers that it does not control, such as those of the Independent Trade Union of Belarus.
  • It is necessary to draw conclusions and prepare for a new phase of the struggle, taking into account the lessons and experience of the popular mass uprising of 2020. The overthrow of the authoritarian regime of Lukashenko is the indispensable prerequisite to liberate the forces of the mass movement and advance towards independent political, union and organizational positions. It is necessary to build class organizations that overcome the limitations of the Belarusian liberal opposition that demonstrated its vacillations and weaknesses during the mass mobilizations.
  • The neoliberal course associated with the destruction of the industrial potential of Belarus, which is the liberal right-wing part of the opposition movement, is extremely undesirable and detrimental to the nascent Belarusian labor movement. Preserving the country’s industrial potential means preserving the working class itself. Therefore, any slogan of the right wing of the opposition, related to the course towards the privatization of the largest industrial companies, must be criticized as a measure to deepen capitalist restoration and resolutely confronted.
  • It is also necessary to be very cautious with the slogans of the “European road for Belarus.” Western Europe is attractive to Belarusian workers for its social standards and a developed system of unions, but the liberal right uses the slogans “pro-European” in its own reactionary benefit, not to improve the living conditions of the great majority.
  • The formation of a Belarusian workers party will be the best guarantee of the true independence of the labor movement from any external influence, be it the influence of the state bureaucracy or the influence of the bourgeoisie opposed to the Lukashenko regime. This means that presenting the slogan of creating a workers’ party, to resolutely fight both the Lukashenko regime and the course of possible neoliberal reforms by the right-wing liberal part of the opposition, is appropriate and extremely relevant in the current situation in Belarus.
  • We remember Lenin’s famous phrase on the eve of the October Revolution of 1917: “today is too early, tomorrow is too late.” A similar situation is now developing in Belarus in the context of the formation of the current labor agenda. On the one hand, until the Lukashenko regime is overthrown, it is desirable that workers maintain a unity in action, mobilizing with the opposition, so as not to weaken the anti-Lukashenko protest. At the same time, the working class wing of the opposition should already carry out public agitation and propaganda among protesting workers in favor of a working class program and the idea of ​​creating their own Workers’ Party on the basis of strike committees and trade unions independent of the regime. If we lose sight of this point, the working class wing will not be prepared, in the event of the overthrow of the Lukashenko regime, to resist the right-wing liberal forces that until recently were circumstantial allies, in terms of the overthrow of an authoritarian regime.
  • In Ukraine, the Zelensky regime has received a respite by thwarting a mass grassroots protest movement against unreasonably high utility rates in spring 2021. Activists from the 2021 winter-spring protest movement were declared “agents of Russia” and a widespread criminal proceeding was initiated against them. However, attempts by the bourgeois authorities to somehow stabilize the socio-economic situation in Ukraine by the fall of 2021 faced a sharp increase in the cost of world gas prices. The monthly bills Ukrainian pensioners pay for gas significantly exceeds the size of their pensions. Zelensky publicly promised the population that this season the price of heating will not be increased, but this was immediately refuted by the situation itself.
  • The war continues in eastern Ukraine, Donbass, where Russian imperialism has created two quasi-dependent “republics” and is trying to increase its influence in Ukraine. The aggression of Russian imperialism is complemented by the economic pressure of Western imperialism on Ukraine. Both bourgeois regimes, Russia and Ukraine, use the war to solve their political interests, and the main burdens of the war are borne by the common residents of Donbass. However the pacifist agenda itself does not help the labor movement in this situation. The pro-Russian forces are actively using appeals for an abstract “peace” to recognize the current status quo and correct the results of the annexation by Russian imperialism of part of the Ukrainian territory. Therefore, instead of an abstract “peace,” we call for an immediate end to the occupation of part of the Ukrainian territory by the imperialist armed forces of Russia and their militarist “representatives.” The true self-determination of the people of Donbass cannot be realized under the conditions of a Russian military occupation.
  • There is not a single left party in the Ukrainian parliament, and despite the contradictions between the bourgeois parliamentary parties, there is a strong “oligarchic consensus” in which all difficulties and failures of the government are borne by the impoverished population. The country’s economy is distributed among a group of the biggest Ukrainian capitalists: the “oligarchs.” New actors are trying to enter this economy from abroad who, with the help of the “conditioning West” and its powerful levers of influence in Ukraine, are trying to weaken the political and economic influence of local oligarchs over President Zelensky.
  • The current political agenda of Ukraine is marked by the struggle of the so-called “Soros” (the symbol of the representatives of American and European capital in Ukraine, associated with the name of the largest transcontinental financial capitalist George Soros), as an instrument of external control by the conditioning “West” and the large Ukrainian financial and industrial groups, which received their own symbol: “oligarchs.” And Zelensky occasionally scares some of them with the fact that he will eventually step over to his opponent’s side. This unstable balancing act in itself shows the weakness of the Ukrainian bourgeois state apparatus, which is also extremely corrupt.
  • In April 2021, the Ukrainian Socialist League was established in Ukraine. One of the main tasks of our comrades is uniting the militant workers of the independent trade unions of Ukraine around the struggle for a socialist program. The workers’ movement in Ukraine is now in an extremely difficult situation. The absence of even the most “pink” left parties in the Ukrainian parliament complicates the situation. The right-wing conservative and right-wing liberal parliament has prepared for the adoption of a series of anti-worker and anti-union laws, according to which workers in Ukraine would completely lose the opportunity to fight for their rights through their unions. Trade union rights, according to the plans of the ruling “Servant of the People” presidential party, should be reduced to a minimum, and employers would have the right to massively fire worker activists without any help from the unions.
  • The large-scale action of the united Ukrainian trade unions on October 7, 2021 clearly demonstrated to the bourgeois authorities the strength of social resistance to the adoption of anti-worker laws. More and more workers are being included in the social struggle. This struggle has not yet found its political expression in the form of a militant workers’ party. The Socialist League of Ukrainian Youth calls for the creation of such a party.
  • It is very important not to promote illusions about the politics of all imperialists in Ukraine. We resolutely reject the idea of ​​seeking the so-called “lesser evil.” Only a small number of left-wing activists see a “lesser evil” in “Russian” or “Western” imperialism. It is to be expected that in time there will be a regrouping of the Ukrainian left nuclei and vanguards, and we will simultaneously fight against Russian imperialist aggression and against the economic strangulation of Ukraine by Western imperialism. The Ukrainian Socialist League acts with a left-wing anti-imperialist program for Ukraine and with the strongest social struggle against neoliberal reforms.
  • In 2021, the Ukrainian section ISL-LIS , the “Ukrainian Socialist League” (USL) was founded, strengthened and gained influence in the trade union and left-wing political environment. A deep and exhaustive analysis of this region of Eastern Europe is becoming more and more relevant to developing a working class socialist program.

The 1st Congress of the ISL resolves:

  1. To support the struggles and demands of the workers and the Independent Trade Unions of Eastern Europe for their democratic and social rights. To reject the repression, persecution and imprisonment of working class leaders and activists, youth and workers for having different opinions and defending their political ideas. To stand against the capitalist restoration and its austerity measures. To campaign in support of the Ukrainian workers facing the anti-worker reforms of Zelensky and the “Servants of the People” party.
  2. To seek relationships with activists, groups and / or parties from Eastern European countries, progressives or revolutionaries, based on the contacts and international campaigns of the ISL. They must be independent of the bourgeois and bureaucratic parties or in crisis with their leaderships from positions of the left. The objective is to advancing in joint actions and the extension of our international organization.
  3. To support the growth of the Ukrainian Socialist League and promote the creation of a Workers’ Party in Belarus, based on the foundation of a socialist, revolutionary and internationalist nucleus, under the conditions allowed by the current repressive situation in the country. To maintain and expand relations with progressive and revolutionary groups in Russia and other Eastern European countries, based on a clear profile as members of the International Socialist League.
  4. To advocate the repudiation of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and the occupation of its territory. To reject any imperialist interference and the concept of campism, which prioritizes some imperialists over others. Down with the authoritarian governments and regimes of Russia and Belarus.
  5. To carry out a propaganda event with militants and supporters during 2022 in Ukraine, open to participants from other Eastern countries, with the format of a political education school or another that may appropriate.
  6. To maintain an annual meeting of the ISL with comrades from Eastern Europe to evaluate what has been done, debate the policy and maintain offensive initiatives for growth and relations with other sectors of the working-class and popular vanguard.
  7. To carry out a permanent, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist propaganda campaign, patiently explaining with the necessary adjustments that revolutionary and internationalist socialism, with a government of the workers and the people and a regime of workers’ democracy, are the only solution to qualitatively change the democratic and social living conditions of the great majorities. Without corrupt and privileged capitalists or bureaucrats in power, far from both the liberals and any Stalinist or bureaucratic variant. In short, a system in which there are neither exploiters nor exploited, neither oppressors nor oppressed, with full democratic freedoms, where the working class can debate everything and decide its own destiny.