“Self-Determination for Donbass”: A Reactionary Slogan in the Service of Russian Imperialism (Theses)


RKOB
 

These Theses are a result of our close collaboration with Russian and Ukrainian comrades. As many are aware, the "national rights of the Donbass people" is a crucial ideological instrument of the Putin regime to justify its aggressive foreign policy.

If you click on the link below, you will also see a link to the Russian-language version of the text.

“Self-Determination for Donbass”: A Reactionary Slogan in the Service of Russian Imperialism

On the historical, theoretical, and political reasons why this slogan is contrary to the Marxist program of national self-determination as well as to the interests of the current national liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people

Theses of the RCIT, 27 June 2022

https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-on-donbass/


John Reimann
 

I agree with the general thesis of RCIT on this issue. What's more, we have to consider the call in the present context: After the establishment of the two fake "republics" and the war that followed, tens of thousands of people left the region. Since the Russian invasion, hundreds of thousands or (more likely) millions have left. If Russia retains military control over the region, which seems entirely possible, then I think the result will be that Russia will send millions of Russians into the region as settlers. It will not be entirely different from what Israel is doing in the West Bank. So, calling for "self determination" of Donbass would be like calling for self determination, community-by-community, in the West Bank.

John Reimann
--
“Science and socialism go hand-in-hand.” Felicity Dowling
Check out:https:http://oaklandsocialist.com also on Facebook


Chris Slee
 

I have thought about the idea of advocating an internationally supervised referendum.  One precedent for holding a referendum under difficult conditions was East Timor in 1999. The people voted for independence despite intimidation from pro-Indonesia militias.

Holding a referendum in Donbas would be even more difficult, because so many people have been forced to flee their homes.  It would be possible to set up polling booths in some of the places to which they have fled, but many would be likely to miss out.

I alternate between thinking it is an impractical idea and thinking it would be useful as a demand to put to Putin: you claim go be defending the people of Donbas, let them vote on whether they want to be part of Russia or not.

Putin would be unlikely to accept this demand unless he judged that the costs (military, economic and political) of continuing the war outweighed the benefits for him.  Hence it is not counterposed to arming the Ukrainian forces.

Chris Slee


.


From: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io> on behalf of John Reimann <1999wildcat@...>
Sent: Wednesday, 29 June 2022 9:51 PM
To: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [marxmail] “Self-Determination for Donbass”: A Reactionary Slogan in the Service of Russian Imperialism (Theses)
 
I agree with the general thesis of RCIT on this issue. What's more, we have to consider the call in the present context: After the establishment of the two fake "republics" and the war that followed, tens of thousands of people left the region. Since the Russian invasion, hundreds of thousands or (more likely) millions have left. If Russia retains military control over the region, which seems entirely possible, then I think the result will be that Russia will send millions of Russians into the region as settlers. It will not be entirely different from what Israel is doing in the West Bank. So, calling for "self determination" of Donbass would be like calling for self determination, community-by-community, in the West Bank.

John Reimann
--
“Science and socialism go hand-in-hand.” Felicity Dowling
Check out:https:http://oaklandsocialist.com also on Facebook


Michael Karadjis
 

That was a terrific piece Michael, fully agree that 'self-determination for Donbas' is a reactionary slogan of the type 'self-determination for Ulster'. While Chris expressed reservations about a Donbas referendum in the circumstances, I think it is mistaken to even compare it to East Timor. There is no Donbas nation.

John writes "After the establishment of the two fake "republics" and the war that followed, tens of thousands of people left the region. Since the Russian invasion, hundreds of thousands or (more likely) millions have left"

It's much worse than that John. Long before the Russian invasion, 3.3 million people - 50% of the Donbas population - had fled the region, some 1.8 million to elsewhere in Ukraine, and 1.5 million to Russia or Belarus. So aside from what we know of the attitudes of people still living in Donbas - ie, very few supported joining Russia, and even support for autonomy was rather mixed and far from overwhelming or even necessarily majority - any such referendum would exclude half the population who have been uprooted.  

Michael

On Thu, Jun 30, 2022 at 2:27 PM Chris Slee <chris_w_slee@...> wrote:
I have thought about the idea of advocating an internationally supervised referendum.  One precedent for holding a referendum under difficult conditions was East Timor in 1999. The people voted for independence despite intimidation from pro-Indonesia militias.

Holding a referendum in Donbas would be even more difficult, because so many people have been forced to flee their homes.  It would be possible to set up polling booths in some of the places to which they have fled, but many would be likely to miss out.

I alternate between thinking it is an impractical idea and thinking it would be useful as a demand to put to Putin: you claim go be defending the people of Donbas, let them vote on whether they want to be part of Russia or not.

Putin would be unlikely to accept this demand unless he judged that the costs (military, economic and political) of continuing the war outweighed the benefits for him.  Hence it is not counterposed to arming the Ukrainian forces.

Chris Slee


.

From: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io> on behalf of John Reimann <1999wildcat@...>
Sent: Wednesday, 29 June 2022 9:51 PM
To: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [marxmail] “Self-Determination for Donbass”: A Reactionary Slogan in the Service of Russian Imperialism (Theses)
 
I agree with the general thesis of RCIT on this issue. What's more, we have to consider the call in the present context: After the establishment of the two fake "republics" and the war that followed, tens of thousands of people left the region. Since the Russian invasion, hundreds of thousands or (more likely) millions have left. If Russia retains military control over the region, which seems entirely possible, then I think the result will be that Russia will send millions of Russians into the region as settlers. It will not be entirely different from what Israel is doing in the West Bank. So, calling for "self determination" of Donbass would be like calling for self determination, community-by-community, in the West Bank.

John Reimann
--
“Science and socialism go hand-in-hand.” Felicity Dowling
Check out:https:http://oaklandsocialist.com also on Facebook


RKOB
 

Thanks, Michael!

I agree that there are problems with the well-intended suggestions of Chris - in particular, as you say, there has been such a massive displacement of people.

At this point, I would like to emphasise just two points.

1) As the Donbass-Theses explain, the whole issue of 'self-determination for Donbas' is a key significance for the political work of socialists in Russia. This is currently probably the most important element of the whole Ruskji Mir propaganda of the Putinist ideological machinery. Hence, having aclear line and arguments is essential in the area of ideological propaganda work for Marxists in Russia.

2) As comrades on this list are surely aware, this issue is also essential for the work of socialists in the Ukraine. In this case, however, it is also important to add that it is necessary not to make concessions to anti-Russian chauvinism and to insist that there should be no restrictions on the use of Russian language and culture in public life (naturally, on the basis of a united Ukraine). Otherwise, this would play into the hands of the Putinistas.

Am 30.06.2022 um 11:10 schrieb Michael Karadjis:

That was a terrific piece Michael, fully agree that 'self-determination for Donbas' is a reactionary slogan of the type 'self-determination for Ulster'. While Chris expressed reservations about a Donbas referendum in the circumstances, I think it is mistaken to even compare it to East Timor. There is no Donbas nation.

John writes "After the establishment of the two fake "republics" and the war that followed, tens of thousands of people left the region. Since the Russian invasion, hundreds of thousands or (more likely) millions have left"

It's much worse than that John. Long before the Russian invasion, 3.3 million people - 50% of the Donbas population - had fled the region, some 1.8 million to elsewhere in Ukraine, and 1.5 million to Russia or Belarus. So aside from what we know of the attitudes of people still living in Donbas - ie, very few supported joining Russia, and even support for autonomy was rather mixed and far from overwhelming or even necessarily majority - any such referendum would exclude half the population who have been uprooted.  

Michael

On Thu, Jun 30, 2022 at 2:27 PM Chris Slee <chris_w_slee@...> wrote:
I have thought about the idea of advocating an internationally supervised referendum.  One precedent for holding a referendum under difficult conditions was East Timor in 1999. The people voted for independence despite intimidation from pro-Indonesia militias.

Holding a referendum in Donbas would be even more difficult, because so many people have been forced to flee their homes.  It would be possible to set up polling booths in some of the places to which they have fled, but many would be likely to miss out.

I alternate between thinking it is an impractical idea and thinking it would be useful as a demand to put to Putin: you claim go be defending the people of Donbas, let them vote on whether they want to be part of Russia or not.

Putin would be unlikely to accept this demand unless he judged that the costs (military, economic and political) of continuing the war outweighed the benefits for him.  Hence it is not counterposed to arming the Ukrainian forces.

Chris Slee


.

From: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io> on behalf of John Reimann <1999wildcat@...>
Sent: Wednesday, 29 June 2022 9:51 PM
To: marxmail@groups.io <marxmail@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [marxmail] “Self-Determination for Donbass”: A Reactionary Slogan in the Service of Russian Imperialism (Theses)
 
I agree with the general thesis of RCIT on this issue. What's more, we have to consider the call in the present context: After the establishment of the two fake "republics" and the war that followed, tens of thousands of people left the region. Since the Russian invasion, hundreds of thousands or (more likely) millions have left. If Russia retains military control over the region, which seems entirely possible, then I think the result will be that Russia will send millions of Russians into the region as settlers. It will not be entirely different from what Israel is doing in the West Bank. So, calling for "self determination" of Donbass would be like calling for self determination, community-by-community, in the West Bank.

John Reimann
--
“Science and socialism go hand-in-hand.” Felicity Dowling
Check out:https:http://oaklandsocialist.com also on Facebook


ioannis aposperites
 

Στις 29/6/22 09:25, ο/η RKOB έγραψε:

“Self-Determination for Donbass”: A Reactionary Slogan in the Service of Russian Imperialism

One must be extremely cautious on this matter.

One must not forget that there has been an issue regarding precisely Donbas at least since 1918-1919 when Great Russian workers proclaimed the local Soviet Republic  “which does not want to hear anything about some so-called Ukraine and has nothing in common with it.” The ethnic tension thus cannot be dismissed beforehand.

On top of this background, one must add the aggravation of the ethnic divisions among working-class people brought about by war since 2014.


As long as the self-determination discourse regards the cultural level, socialists can and must support the ethnic aspirations of the sizeable Russian (or Russian-speaking) minority against Ukrainian nationalism. (The same of course holds for any other minority).

But the right to political self-determination is quite a different matter. In the current political context, self-determination cannot be a question of political autonomy within the Ukrainian state, for no one advocates it. Either Ukraine keeps Donbas or Russia annexes it. Socialists must oppose annexation for two reasons. 

(a) Because the oppressing (Great Russian) nationalism is reactionary, a real setback regarding the consciousness of the working class, and

(b) Because, even if one is unconditionally for the self-determination of the ethnic Russians (or whatever they think they are), one must not risk a nuclear world war for the sake of a couple of millions of Russian-minded inhabitants of Donbas. A political line like this does not capitulate to Russian imperialism.

Yet, this is not to capitulate to Western imperialism by supporting NATO in arming the Ukrainian Capitalists. Ukrainian capitalists do not share the ethnic aspirations of Ukrainian working-class people. All the more, they have no interest in raising any democratic (bourgeois) demand at all. In my view, automatic support for any oppressed nationalism, regardless of the political context, is pure metaphysics and, in this case, has ended up in social-chauvinism.


JA