Commentary: On Russian protests and U.S. intervention

By Greg Butterfield

Communists and anti-imperialists must unwaveringly oppose U.S. intervention against Russia. Workers and oppressed people in the U.S. have no interest in supporting the Western demonization of President Vladimir Putin or the Russian people.

We should remind our class that while U.S. federal, state and local officials from both capitalist parties repress Black Lives Matter protests and protect killer cops, they have no business passing judgement on other countries. This amounts to nothing more than war propaganda, meant to soften up public opinion for more destructive sanctions and military buildup at the expense of people’s needs.

It is also important to expose pro-Western opposition figures like Alexey Navalny. Before his rebranding as a liberal human-rights defender palatable to the Western media, Navalny was involved with ultra-right Russian nationalists and fascists. He was particularly known for his racist agitation against immigrants and national minorities. This video by Italian comrades, recently translated into English, is a good primer on his backstory.

Protest action on January 31 in Novosibirsk.

Photo: United Communist Party

At the same time, it is important to listen to what our communist comrades in Russia are saying about the current protests sparked by Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Russia. Of course, the West would like this movement to become a “color revolution” that could overturn the Russian government and install a pliable regime. But that is not yet the case.

The deep economic crisis, caused in part by Western sanctions, the growing divide between the common people and the oligarchy, and increasing repression of the workers’ movement by the government — which is based in the counter-revolution that overthrew the socialist USSR — has generated many reasons for a social explosion.

Many communists and socialists in Russia, from various groups (including the United Communist Party, Russian Communist Workers Party, Left Front, as well as some local groups of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation), have argued that they must intervene in the protests to raise class demands and work to steer the youth and others coming out in a leftward direction. To stand aside and simply denounce those protesting as dupes of imperialism would only guarantee that the pro-Western and ultra-right political forces continue to lead the movement.

When communists have gone to these demonstrations with their banners and leaflets, they have found a lot of openness to socialist ideas. This is very different from the Maidan movement in Ukraine in 2013-2014, when communists who tried to intervene were driven out by fascists. The presence of the left and its influence on the crowds has been taken note of in various Russian cities. This is a good development.

I have confidence in the judgement of the comrades from the United Communist Party, among others. They have been on the frontlines of the struggle to defend the Donbass republics from military attacks by the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime. They have sent members to fight in the antifascist militias and provided material aid to them since 2014. They understand what Navalny represents, and are well aware of the dangers posed by U.S. imperialism. And they are also serious about their responsibility to the socialist liberation of the Russian working class.

Russia is not an imperialist country. Because of the determination of the U.S. and European imperialists to encircle and dismember the Russian Federation, the Putin government and the capitalist class it represents were not able to forge the alliance with the Western powers that they sought in the early 2000s. The imperialists forced Russia’s government into an objectively anti-imperialist position in world affairs just to survive. Russia today provides important support to Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and other countries targeted by the U.S.

At the same time, the Russian oligarchy’s fear of the left and of Soviet tradition undermines its ability to resist imperialism. A strong workers’ movement and revolutionary left is the best guarantee of Russia’s continued independence. The Russian government’s attempt to maintain the status quo through repression and austerity will only strengthen the hand of the far right and pro-Western forces.

U.S. hands off Russia!

Yes, expose Navalny — and support the Russian communists as they do their job.

The author is the coordinator of Solidarity with Novorossiya & Antifascists in Ukraine. He visited the Donbass republics in 2016, and met with exiled Ukrainian activists in Russia in 2014 and 2016.

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