2 years of war in Ukraine: Preliminary results and prospects

Oleg VERNIK, president of the “Zakhist Pratsi” Independent Trade Union of Ukraine, Ukrainian Socialist League

February 24, 2024 marks a very sad anniversary: exactly two years ago, Russian President Putin ordered his troops to launch the so-called “Special Military Operation” and invade Ukraine. The Ukrainian people faced a threat to their very survival and independent development. Prior to the attack, Putin publicly claimed that there was no independent Ukrainian people and that Ukraine was invented by Lenin. However, the heroic resistance of the people did not allow the Russian dictator’s plans to materialize. Ukraine managed to offer a worthy resistance to the “world’s second army” and our struggle continues. It continues, no thanks to, but in spite of, the corrupt bourgeois Zelensky government, which has recently clearly demonstrated all facets of its insanity.

Zelensky, it’s time to grow marijuana!

On February 15 it became known that Zelensky signed a law, previously approved by the Parliament, on the legalization of “medical cannabis”, better known in the world as “marijuana”. Increasingly, at the end of the second year of a difficult defensive war against the Russian aggressor, workers feel that Zelensky’s cabinet and his Servant of the People party find themselves in a surreal scenario and even in a narcotic vision of the world around them.

Under conditions of a terrible shortage of military equipment and shells at the front, state budget deficit and total dependence on the support of Western partners, of budget imbalance between central and local governments, Zelensky’s government is busy implementing its commercial projects for marijuana cultivation and comerce. In the most recent law, marijuana is disguised as “medical cannabis.”

The state will grant “licenses” to some entrepreneurs close to the authorities to grow cannabis “on an industrial scale” and the plantations, according to the new law, will be protected and monitored by the police. The creation of yet another corrupt, large-scale business project by “Team Zelensky” is cynically disguised as concern for people suffering from cancer who need cannabis to reduce pain. Of course, the people simply cannot take these arguments of the authorities seriously, which in themselves reinforce the surreal picture of what is happening at the “top” of Ukrainian politics. But the emergence of a “Colombia” on the European continent, in turn, looks like a realistic scenario and a near future for the Ukrainian authorities. And if today Polish farmers block trucks with Ukrainian grain at the border, perhaps tomorrow they will block caravans of trucks with Ukrainian “medical marijuana” for European consumers.

Resignation of General Zaluzhny, corruption in the country and the army

On February 8, 2024, Zelensky dismissed the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny. I previously wrote that the general has recently significantly surpassed President Zelensky in his popularity ratings. The entire systemic opposition in Ukraine began to rally around General Zaluzhny. The political prospects of Zelensky’s team under the army leadership of his main opponent Zaluzhny became very illusory. Analysts predicted Zaluzhny’s dismissal. According to available information, a few days before his dismissal, President Zelensky called Zaluzhny and invited him to write a statement of voluntary resignation, but he refused. In this situation, Zelensky had to make an extremely unpopular decision: to dismiss the people’s favorite general, whose name is associated with the successes of Ukraine in defending itself from the aggression of Russian imperialism.

General Syrsky, close to the Presidential Office, was appointed as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. It is still too early to draw conclusions about the new Commander, however, it must be admitted that some of his first public steps enjoy approval both among the military in the front line and among the population. Syrsky understands that the initial attitude of the people characterized him as “Zelensky’s striker”. And he needed to transform that attitude with some populist measures. One of his first steps was the initiation of the so-called audit in the army. It turned out that about 1 million people were mobilized, but only 300,000 of them directly participate in the battles at the front and have not been rotated for 2 years. Where were 700,000 mobilized people lost and why is there no rotation of front-line military units and formations?

It is important to note here that these populist measures by General Syrsky, unexpectedly for Zelensky, may reveal the corrupt nature of the government’s military-organizational policy. I have written before that the currently mobilized army is of a workers’ and peasants’ nature. Only the poorest strata are subject to mobilization, while the representatives of the bourgeois class and the bureaucratic elite find options to avoid it. Since the beginning of the large-scale Russian imperialist aggression, Zelensky has closed the borders to Ukrainian men, creating something like the first ghetto in Europe in a long time. However, representatives of the elite, the bureaucracy and the capitalist class, have no problems crossing the borders. The authorities have created corrupt official and semi-official schemes, where, disguised as “volunteers”, representatives of the elite leave the territory without any problem. In fact, corruption and the absence of independent media maintain this situation over time.

Less and less Western aid

In January 2024, it became clear that the European Union could neither produce nor supply the one million projectiles previously promised to Ukraine. In January-February, Ukrainian artillery began to use significantly fewer shells at the front, which immediately led to a sharp deterioration in the situation. The other day the Ukrainian army that heroically repelled the attacks of the far superior Russian army for months of war began to withdraw its forces from the town of Avdiivka, and a difficult situation also developed in other sectors of the front. Many analysts bitterly joke about the fact that EU imperialism, with its strong economy, could not produce a million shells, while tiny North Korea supplies the same volume to the Russian army without any problems.

In many ways, the recent EU decision to allocate 50 billion euros in aid to Ukraine turned out to be a saving grace for the Zelensky government. The receipt of this aid has been dragged out over four years and is clearly not enough to stabilize Ukraine’s budget. It should be noted that even with the allocation of these funds there is a reduction of budget funding for Ukraine by 1.5 times compared to the level of 2023.

With US aid, the situation is even sadder. The recent Senate decision to allocate military and financial assistance to Ukraine is still subject to approval by the House of Representatives, where the majority belongs to the Republican Party. The Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, are sabotaging any aid to Ukraine and the prospects of overcoming the House of Representatives are extremely ambiguous. In any case, for the past three months, the US has not supplied Ukraine with a single shell, a single projectile, or a single missile. Increasingly, there are talks in the US at various levels about the possibility of reaching an eventual agreement with Russian imperialism on the Ukrainian question based on the establishment of some kind of anti-Chinese bloc. Even President Biden no longer raises the slogan of liberating all occupied Ukrainian territories. The collusion of US and Russian imperialism against Ukraine’s and the resistance are becoming more and more possible.

Social situation: Students rise to fight back

We previously wrote that the latest legislative innovations of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party were aimed at eliminating rights that the labor movement gained in recent years. In January-February 2024, the attacks of the neoliberal government hit the students. The Ministry of Education announced a plan to reorganize several universities by merging and consolidating them with a sharp decrease in the number of students. For many years in a row, the policy of the bourgeois government has aimed at destroying Ukraine’s industrial potential, transforming its once diverse economy into a mono-domination of the non-innovative agricultural sector. As a result of this strategy, a sharp reduction in the number of higher education institutions and universities, the collapse of intellectual, scientific centers and the fall of student enrollment is expected.

It should be noted that the students offered worthy resistance to the government’s plans. The flagship of the resistance were the mass protests at Tauride University, Kharkov National Pedagogical University and the National Aviation University, which, according to the plans of the Ministry of Education, were among the first to be subjected to forced reorganization. The independent leftist student union “Direct Action” managed to actively infiltrate the student protests and lead the students’ struggle against the government’s Bill No. 10. 399 “On amendments to certain laws of Ukraine on the financing of higher education and provision of targeted state support to its applicants”. We still have a long struggle ahead of us, but it is already clear that the students are waking up and are ready to fight.

Marxist analysis of the Russian-Ukrainian war is more relevant than ever

On the second anniversary of Russian imperialism’s military aggression against Ukraine, attacks on the Marxist method of analysis surrounding the war have intensified.  Again and again, the campists try to distort objective analysis, replacing it with justifications for imperialist aggressions based on geopolitical alignments and the search for the “lesser evil” in the world imperialist system.

The analysis of the character of this war must be based on principles, not on conjunctural situations or fluctuations in the mood of the mainstream media. From the beginning of the Russian military aggression, the ISL identified two parallel processes which are subject to its own analysis. On the one hand, the just defense by Ukraine of its sovereignty and the very existence of the independent Ukrainian people, and on the other, the aggravation of the inter-imperialist contradictions between the NATO powers and the emerging Russian and Chinese imperialisms. Any separation in the analysis of one process from the other, as well as the exaggeration of one of them, leads to a misunderstanding of the situation and to an incorrect orientation by the Marxist forces. These processes must be analyzed systematically, in their dialectical unity and their contradictions. Neither is primary or secondary; both fundamentally influence the dynamics of the development of the situation.

Based on the analysis of the first process, it is necessary to defend the sovereignty of the non-imperialist and extremely dependent Ukraine (35 million inhabitants) in a situation of imperialist aggression against it by the Russian Federation (140 million inhabitants) to the point of inflicting a military defeat on the aggressor. To deny the just struggle of the people for self-determination and for the existence of their state, implies consciously supporting Russian imperialism and its armed aggression.

According to the analysis of the second process associated with the confrontation between Russian and Western imperialism, the ISL does not support any of the imperialist powers fighting on Ukrainian territory. It is obvious that US imperialism (and Western imperialism in general) try to use the situation associated with the Russian aggression to their advantage, i.e. to maximize their political and economic influence in Ukraine and on the whole territory of Eastern Europe. The longer the war lasts and the longer it takes Ukraine to drive out the Russian occupiers, the more the dependence of the Zelensky government on Western imperialism will grow.

The near future is extremely uncertain

It should be noted that, at times, Zelensky avoided coordinating his decisions with his Western partners. However, by the beginning of 2024, it seems that the degree of dependence is such that he no longer has room for maneuver and will have to move into a stage of total external control of Ukraine, by the US and the EU in the first place. Probably, General Zaluzhny’s resignation was Zelensky’s last major independent decision. Now information is circulating about a decision already taken and agreed on with the US on a change in the Ukrainian government. The name of a possible future prime minister is mentioned more and more often: Oksana Markarova, the current ambassador to the US, who enjoys the confidence of the US authorities.

It will be the situation on the front that will most seriously and radically influence the internal situation in Ukraine in the near future. It is highly unlikely that the mobilization of 500,000 new soldiers will qualitatively change the current balance, that the mobilization itself could culminate in significant success, and that the mobilized elderly, poorly motivated and poorly trained civilians will become the factor that could radically change the balance of forces on the battlefield. This impasse could probably be overcome by providing Ukraine with long-promised modern long-range weapons and military aircraft. So far, however, no progress has been seen on this issue.

Just as two years ago, Ukraine and its working class were essentially left alone in repelling Putin’s imperialist onslaught, the heroism of the people and their army is a key factor in such an enduring resistance. But an equally important factor is international proletarian solidarity with the fighting Ukrainian people. The ISL has always been at the forefront of this solidarity and support. We have 2 years of hard struggle behind us. We have victory ahead of us! Victory over the external enemy and victory over the internal enemy!