T.O. 90 – Supreme Court /Abortion – LCIP Press Release – Pentagon Leaks – France Fight Not Over – 100 Years Ago
IN THIS ISSUE:
• The U.S. Supreme Court’s April 21 Stay on Reproductive Rights: Sigh of Relief, But a Renewed Assault Lurks on the Horizon – by Mya Shone
• “A Small Consolation”: Background to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Stay on the Right to an Abortion – by Christel Keiser
• Urgent Press Release: LCIP National Conference 2023: Build an Independent Working-Class Party: Break the grip of the two-party system NOW!
• War in Ukraine: What the “Pentagon Leaks” Reveal – by D.F.
• Ukraine: Zelensky’s Postwar Plans – by D.F.
• Beating the War Drums in the Name of “Deterrence”: Excerpts from Media Coverage of “Pentagon Leaks”
• FRANCE: Out with Macron, His Pension Reform and His War Economy”! – Statement by the POID National Bureau
• OUR REVOLUTIONARY CONTINUITY: One Hundred Years Ago — December 30, 1922: The Founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Part 1 of 2 Parts) – by François Forgue and Max Schumacher
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The U.S. Supreme Court’s April 21 Stay on Reproductive Rights: A Sigh of Relief, But a Renewed Assault Lurks on the Horizon
By Mya Shone
Women of reproductive age across the United States breathed a momentary sigh of relief when the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, April 21, overrode the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and issued its own temporary stay of an April 7 ruling by Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryck of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. At its minimum, Kacsmaryck’s decision would have prevented the distribution of mifepristone, the abortion pill authorized by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) 23 years ago that is used for over half of abortions in the United States today.
In its full context, however, Kacsmaryck’s ruling also enshrined the concept of the “fetus” as an “unborn human” and relied upon an 1873 federal anti-obscenity and pornography law — the Comstock Act, which never was repealed in full — that banned the distribution through the mail of any substance “designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion.” Further, it took the unprecedented step to threaten the FDA’s authority to approve and regulate prescription drugs and medical devices.
The virulent minority anti-abortion movement — and minority it is since the vast majority of people in the U.S. support the right to abortion — has set its sights once again on the federal courts replete with Trump-appointed judges, such as Kacsmaryck, inimical to women’s rights.
There is no mystery as to how the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s most conservative, is expected to rule after its next hearing scheduled for May 17. A three-judge panel already revealed in its prior order on the Kacsmaryck ruling that anti-abortion doctors have a right to sue (“standing”), lambasted the FDA for its approval process, and agreed with Kacsmaryk’s reading of the applicability of the archaic Comstock law.
The only difference among the judges was that one would have approved Kacsmaryk’s ruling in full while the other two judges ruled that time had run out to challenge the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone but not the FDA’s significant rule changes in 2016, which extended its use from seven weeks up to 10 weeks pregnancy and the 2021 FDA decision that lifted in-person requirements and allowed for patients to receive abortion medications by mail.
That this Texas case reaches the Supreme Court this year or next seems inevitable given the many fundamental legal issues at stake. Nor did the Supreme Court’s one-paragraph stay address the counter-decision issued by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice, an Obama appointee for Eastern Washington. Rice’s order, issued less than one hour after Kacsmaryk’s, blocks the FDA from making any changes to access of the drug in the 17 states and the District of Columbia represented by the Democratic attorney generals who had sued the FDA for expanded access.
The battle lines have hardened in the war on women played out through an attack on fundamental reproductive rights. There is a growing divide developing similar to the secessionist challenge to the bourgeois republic waged by slave-holding states. While the attack on abortion has been unrelenting since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the current reactionary Supreme Court majority provided rocket fuel accelerant to the anti-abortion movement on June 24, 2022 when it overturned the federal protection of the constitutional right of a woman to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy and control her future and supposedly relegated the decision on legality and access to the states. This is the same Supreme Court majority that did not even intervene when Texas imposed SB8, a bounty-hunter law against those who aide or assist a woman who has an abortion.
People throughout the United States have not stood silently by. They have organized to preserve or to include constitutional protections in state constitutions, even in situations, such as Kansas, which are historically Red states. Legal organizations, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU, along with Planned Parenthood, have persistently and consistently challenged state laws banning or limiting abortion.
Despite these efforts, however, one in four women of reproductive age (between 15 and 44) lives in a state where abortion is banned or mostly banned with the number growing since the recent Florida law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they are pregnant.
The Guttmacher Institute anticipates that when all is said and done abortion will be banned or access severely limited in more than half of the 50 states.
The threat of a nationwide ban on mifepristone’s use in medication abortion spurred Democratic Party governors in six states, representing a quarter of the nation’s population, into defiant action. The governors of Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Maryland announced that mifepristone, the first drug in the preferred two-step medication process, will remain available in their states. They are stockpiling the drug so that there will be enough on hand for at least a year or even more.
Two other states, California and New York, have acquired already hundreds of thousands of doses of misprostol, the second drug in the medication abortion regimen, which can be used alone but is not as effective as when used after first taking mifepristone. Misprostol, unlike mifepristone, is not currently in legal peril. These six states also welcomed those who are seeking an abortion to travel to their states and are passing laws to protect them, along with pharmacists, and physicians.
California may go a step further. Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state is considering a public-private partnership to manufacture abortion pills.
What is missing so far is the mass action that was the impetus for the Roe v. Wade decision and preserved its essence each and every time prior Supreme Courts considered overturning it.
While the AFL-CIO and many of its affiliated state labor federations have come out definitively to state that reproductive rights, including abortion, are essential workers’ rights, the labor unions have limited their efforts to Democratic Party electoral campaigns. It’s as if an essential lesson has not been learned.
This is the very same Democratic Party that until recently never mounted any fulsome battle for reproductive rights and has allowed the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion to be maintained in each and every budget under its control.
This is the very same Democratic Party that did not pull out all stops to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have ensured abortion access nationally and rendered the current menace of a nationwide abortion ban null and void.
What more can we say? It is long overdue for the labor movement to spearhead a mass-action campaign, together with the women’s and abortion rights movement. It is long overdue for each and every one of us to become involved in creating an independent mass working-class party rooted in labor and oppressed communities that can struggle effectively for essential reproductive rights.
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“A Small Consolation”: Background to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Stay on the Right to an Abortion
By Christel Keiser
In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered an outrageous decision to remove federal abortion protections. Since then, each state has been free to legislate as it sees fit on this issue. As a result, 15 states have banned access to abortion, the latest being Florida. On April 6, the state legislature banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know that they are pregnant.
Seven other states have passed banning legislation, which is currently blocked by the courts. Some of these laws, including Texas’s, have no exceptions, even in cases of pregnancies that result from rape or incest.
But for the enemies of women and their freedoms, this is still not enough because women still have the option of going to another state to have an abortion.
The only thing that would satisfy these women-haters, it appears, is to ban access to abortion nationwide. To do this, they decided to go after mifepristone – the abortion pill which, in combination with another drug, is used for over half of all abortions in the United States.
More than five million women have already used it since it was first approved by the FDA in 2000.
Hence the full-court press to ban the abortion pill. This is what a Texas judge tried to do on April. The judge withdrew the marketing authorization of the abortion pill on the grounds that it would present risks for women’s health. This is the first time that a court has banned a drug on the basis of a safety assessment, thus replacing the scientific experts.
On April 12, the Court of Appeals allowed the abortion pill to remain authorized but only temporarily. Moreover, it imposed more drastic conditions than those set by the FDA. Mifepristone could only be used up to seven weeks of pregnancy instead of ten and could not be sent by mail. In addition, the pregnant woman would have to make three visits to the doctor.
Two days later, on April 14, the Biden administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld – temporarily – access to the abortion pill, suspending the decision of the Court of Appeals.
“This is a small consolation that might last only five days,” said Jenny Ma of the Center for Reproductive Rights. Indeed, on April 19, the Supreme Court must decide whether or not to ban the abortion pill throughout the United States. This is the same court that allowed abortion to be banned in 15 states.
Isn’t it time to get back into the streets in massive numbers to make it clear to the lawmakers in D.C. and across the country, that the majority of women and men support the right to an abortion. Isn’t it time for the labor movement to spearhead a mass-action campaign, together with the women’s and abortion rights movement, to defend and expand a woman’s right to choose?
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LCIP – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LCIP National Conference 2023: Build an Independent Working Class Party: Break the grip of the two-party system NOW!
Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) is hosting a national conference on Saturday, May 13, 2023, at Compton College in Southern California. The conference will also offer remote attendance options via videoconferencing.
The LCIP Conference agenda features diverse panelists/speakers who will address various critical topics. Some of the key issues include why US labor unions should break from the Democratic and Republican Parties, the significance of the Black liberation struggle in organizing an independent working-class political party, and the urgency of addressing immigrant rights legislation in the US.
Attendees can expect an engaging and stimulating discussion with opportunities for networking and building connections. The LCIP National Conference 2023 is a must-attend event for anyone interested in breaking the grip of the two-party system and building an independent working-class political party in the US.
The LCIP Conference Agenda on May 13, 2023 starts at 9:15 AM Pacific Time with in-person check-in and breakfast and will run until 5:00 PM Pacific Time. The Opening Session starts at 10:00 AM Pacific Time.
Some of the esteemed panelists include David Van Deusen, President, Vermont AFL-CIO, and Lisa Knox, Immigration Attorney, Bay Area LCIP and LCIP Continuations Committee.
Other notable speakers include Ron Kaminkow, General Secretary of Railway Workers United (RWU), and Khalid Raheem, Chair of the New Afrikan Independence Party (NAIP).
Early registration is encouraged as space is limited ===>>> LCIP Nat’l Conf 2023 Registration.
Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) is a grassroots organization that aims to break the grip of the Democratic and Republican Parties on the US political system. The LCIP National Conference 2023 is an opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals and organizations committed to creating an independent working-class political party in the US.
For further information, contact: LCIP Media Relations
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War in Ukraine: What the “Pentagon Leaks” Reveal
Documents classified as “top secret” from the Pentagon regarding the war in Ukraine, Russia and the “allies” of the United States, have been leaked on social networks. Their authenticity has not been challenged by the Biden administration. What do they tell us?
As early as April 6, “top secret” Pentagon documents dated February and March 2023 were “leaked” on social networks. The documents were authenticated and published in the press.
The Biden administration, not denying that they were official documents, announced on April 13 the arrest of Jack Teixeira, an employee of the U.S. Air National Guard. According to the police, the 21-year-old is suspected of being the leader of Discord, a group behind the leaks. Is this scenario, worthy of a Hollywood movie? No doubt, but the question is secondary. What matters is what the “Pentagon Leaks” reveal.
These documents confirm the involvement of the United States and NATO countries in the war in Ukraine far beyond what their governments have ever acknowledged. The BBC, which has viewed the leaked documents, reports:
“The UK is among the countries whose military special forces are operating in Ukraine. … According to the document, dated March 23, the United Kingdom has the largest contingent of special forces in Ukraine (50), followed by Latvia (17), France (15), the United States (14) and the Netherlands (1), all of which are NATO members.” (April 12)
Not only have NATO and EU member countries sent tens of billions of dollars worth of armaments to Ukraine, but their special forces are operating on Ukrainian territory. This means that these countries are indeed at war with Russia.
According to the Washington Post (April 9), a serious incident occurred on September 29, 2022 when a British military spy plane of the RC-135 type, flying over Russian bases in Crimea, was almost shot down by Russian forces. This incident “could have drawn the United States and its NATO allies directly into the war in Ukraine” (Ibid.). Not just Ukraine; it could have dragged humanity into a world war.
The leaked documents show the extent of the sources available to the U.S. secret services at the top of the Russian State apparatus and its army. The U.S. services knew in real time the Ukrainian targets targeted by the Russian army… Beset by corruption, Putin’s regime is permeable to all kinds of infiltration, all the way up to the highest levels.
The leaked documents reveal the nature of the relationship between U.S. imperialism and its vassals. For example, the U.S. intelligence services overheard an exchange between Egyptian President Marshal Sissi and senior Egyptian military officials on February 17. They were plotting the delivery of 48,000 rockets to Russia “without telling the West.” The Egyptian army receives a billion dollars a year from the United States to “enforce order” in the Middle East.
These documents show indisputably that Biden and all the governments of the NATO countries have deliberately chosen the path of an all-out war. It is the duty of every organization claiming to represent working-class interests to break with all war-mongering governments. – D.F.
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Ukraine: Zelensky’s Postwar Plans
What Future for Ukraine? On April 13, Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, inaugurated the first “Day of Employees of the Military-Industrial Complex. Because, according to him, “the Ukrainian military-industrial complex can become and, I am sure, will become one of the key branches of our economy. …
“Ukraine will always cooperate in defense with the most powerful states and companies in the world. And we will do everything to ensure that the world’s interest in cooperation with Ukraine in the defense industry is always at an appropriate and high level” (Ukrinform, April 13).
This statement is in keeping with the one made three months ago by Larry Fink, head of the U.S. investment fund BlackRock, to whom Zelensky entrusted a major role in the future “reconstruction” of the country. Fink invited investors to “flood” Ukraine, saying: “I’m not talking about philanthropy. … I’m really talking about the fact that if you want to rebuild Ukraine, it can become a beacon to the rest of the world of the power of capitalism.” — D.F.
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Beating the War Drums in the Name of “Deterrence”: Excerpts from Media Coverage of “Pentagon Leaks”
New York Times (April 11)
“The documents leave no doubt about how deeply the United States is in the day-to-day conduct of the war, providing the precise intelligence and logistics that help explain Ukraine’s success thus far. …
“It is providing detailed targeting data. It is coordinating the long, complex chain that delivers weapons to the Ukrainians. And as a Feb. 22 document makes clear, American officials are planning ahead for a year in which the battle for the Donbas is ‘likely heading toward a stalemate’ that will frustrate Vladimir V. Putin’s goal of capturing the region — and Ukraine’s goal of expelling the invaders.”
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Author James Bamford, interviewed on Amy Goodman’s Democracy NOW (April 11),
James Bamford: “Members of Congress are all giving these upbeat accounts of how well it’s going for Ukraine. The documents give a far more realistic view, saying that, basically, it’s going to come down to a stalemate. …
“There is not going to be any big winners necessarily. And the Ukrainians are in a very bad position, because they’re not getting enough ammunition. The Russians have far more, have much more access to ammunition than the Ukrainians do. So, there’s a switch between the way America perceives the war, I think, to these documents, which give a more realistic — because it’s done with intelligence, more realistic view of how the war is going.
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Washington Post (April 9)
“Taiwan highly vulnerable to Chinese air attack, leaked documents show”
“Taiwan is unlikely to thwart Chinese air superiority in a cross-strait conflict, while tactics such as China’s use of civilian ships for military purposes have eroded U.S. spy agencies’ ability to detect a pending invasion, according to leaked Pentagon assessments that contain troubling details about the self-governed island’s ability to fend off war.
“The assessments state that Taiwan officials doubt their air defenses can ‘accurately detect missile launches’, that barely more than half of Taiwan’s aircraft are fully mission capable and that moving the jets to shelters would take at least a week — a huge problem if China launched missiles before Taiwan had a chance to disperse those planes.”
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Foreign Affairs (April 17)
Russian Invasion of Ukraine Revolutionizes NATO Military Strategy
NATO military strategy has been revolutionized in practical terms: more troops based permanently along the Russian border, more integration of American and allied war plans, more military spending and more detailed requirements for allies to have specific kinds of forces and equipment to fight, if necessary, in pre-assigned places.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the costliest conflict in Europe since World War II, has propelled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into a full-throttled effort to make itself again into the capable, war-fighting alliance it had been during the Cold War.
At the next NATO summit this July, a new spending plan will be agreed upon, with 2 percent of G.D.P. regarded as a minimum. Given Russia’s difficulties in Ukraine, if major countries spend between 2.5 percent and 3 percent of G.D.P. on the military over the next decade, that should be sufficient.”
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“Illegitimate: Macron, His Reform, and His Military Program and the 5th Republic Must Go!“
FRANCE: Out With Macron, His Pension Reform His War Economy”!
Statement by the POID National Bureau
Saturday, April 15
On April 14, the “Constitutional Council” approved Macron’s counter-reform of retirement pensions. In the wake of this approval, Macron hastened its enactment, despite the vast majority of the country’s rejection of this counter-reform. This is how “democracy” works under the Fifth Republic, a monarchy without a crown, where all powers are concentrated in the hands of the president. This Fifth Republic, under Macron, is drifting more and more towards becoming a repressive and autocratic regime, ready to do whatever it takes to impose whatever the capitalists demand.
Sooner or later, real democracy will have to be established. It will be established by the people themselves, who will kick the Fifth Republic out and appoint their representatives to a Constituent Assembly, to decide what a genuinely democratic and social republic should be.
The counter-reform has been enacted. This does not mean, however, that the millions of workers and young people who have been on strike and demonstrating for three months have disappeared, vanished.
It does not make the vast majority’s aspiration to be able to live off their labor with dignity, to be able to look after themselves and to educate the younger generations, disappear.
It is true that the leaders of the all-trade-union alliance ignored the voice rising from below throughout the country demanding : “Leaders, call a general strike!” But, let us say it again: Their refusal to heed this plea has not made the movement disappear.
A new phase of class struggle is beginning, nourished by the lessons of this first period.
In many corporations, the workers have set up strike committees; they have constituted committees of delegates. All the demands remain. To start with: the repeal of the pension reform. But also: a demand for the increase of wages and the freezing of prices (especially the prices of basic necessities). A demand for the banning of lay-offs and redundancies, for cancelling the closure of hospital wards and the closure of classes in schools.
A new stage is beginning. The workers and young people have gained confidence in their strength. In all the demonstrations, we heard the shouts: “Macron Resign!”, “Down with the 49-3!”.
The POID, whose members actively take part in all the workers’ struggles, is fighting for a government without Macron, without war, without bosses; a government that breaks with the Fifth Republic.
This break is urgent. It is urgent because Macron insists and persists and continues. In the next few weeks, he intends to pass the “law of military programming” (LPM), which includes a 40% increase in military spending over the previous law: 413 billion euros for war. He intends to make the people pay for this plundering of the nation’s resources.
Thus, the government has just confirmed to the European Union that it will reduce all public spending – except for the army, to which money is flowing:
– by cutting all other public spending by 5%,
– by cutting the wages of civil servants,
– by further attacking the right to housing,
– by cutting the number of civil servants in the municipal and regional administrations.
The government’s plan, unveiled by the French daily Les Echos, is what Macron himself calls a “war economy”.
This “war economy” is the price of his ever-growing involvement in the war in Ukraine and in the one being prepared in Asia.
Macron’s “war economy” is part of the march towards a real militarization of society, starting with the youth. The government is preparing the introduction of “Universal National Service” (SNU), which will be compulsory military training for all middle-school or high-school students. Meanwhile, direct intervention by the army is increasing in schools, for the recruitment of young people.
For the POID, the duty of organizations that claim to be democratic and representatives of the working class is to join forces to block this march towards the militarization of the country.
The POID is submitting to all a platform of unity against Macron’s “war economy”:
– Repeal of the pension reform!
– Confiscation of the 413 billion euros of the “law of military programming” and the allocation of those funds to the needs of the working people and youth (schools, hospitals, wages, pensions)!
– No to compulsory SNU! – Army and the police out of the schools! Young people need education, not enlistment in the army!
– No to the law of military programming!
— Adopted unanimously by the POID National Bureau
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OUR REVOLUTIONARY CONTINUITY
One Hundred Years Ago — December 30, 1922: The Founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Part 1 of 2 Parts)
By François Forgue and Max Schumacher
[The following is Part 1 of an article reprinted from Issue no. 39 (January 2023) of The Internationale, the theoretical quarterly magazine of the OCRFI -Fourth International.]
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was constituted a century ago. The Congresses of Soviets (Congresses of Workers’ Councils) of the Soviet Socialist Republics of Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia and Transcaucasia decided to form this federation on 30 December 1922. (1)
Is there any need to commemorate this anniversary? Only a few years later – as soon as the Stalinist bureaucracy had secured its power, destroyed every element of workers’ democracy and wiped out the party of Lenin and Trotsky with counterrevolutionary violence – the USSR would no longer be a federation of free republics which had the right to withdraw from it, but a new “prison of the peoples”. In 1991, this common group broke apart: the USSR collapsed. However, the way in which the young Soviet government sought to settle the question of relations between the various nationalities that existed in the Tsarist empire remains highly relevant today.
Ukraine, created by Lenin?
Putin’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, which facilitated a redoubling of the already-active imperialist intervention in the region, leading to a march towards a Third World War waged by the US-led NATO, was “ideologically” justified by Putin through an attack on Lenin’s policies.
Putin explained in his speech on February 21, 2022 that present-day Ukraine was the result of an initiative by Lenin, who made the mistake of enshrining Ukraine as a sovereign nation. (2)
The constitution of the USSR was not, as is often said, simply the legal window-dressing of a system which already existed in practice. On the contrary, it was a major political decision, which Putin recognized by invoking the continuity of the Tsarist empire against it.
As Leon Trotsky emphasized in his article “The Ukrainian Question” dated 22 April 1939 (3), the very constitution of the USSR was the subject of bitter debate within the Bolshevik Party, where two notions were in direct opposition: Lenin’s, faithful to the revolutionary heritage of the Bolshevik Party, which was in favour of the right to self-determination of all the nationalities present within the Russian empire, and that of Stalin and others.
The latter called for the outright integration into the Russian Republic of all the national Republics which had been constituted in the course of the Revolution. Lenin resolutely opposed this project (this discussion is what historian Moshe Lewin called “Lenin’s last struggle”, since it took place when Lenin was already seriously ill, and Stalin used “apparatus” methods against the democratic rules of the party for the first time to this degree) (4).
The Russian Revolution, a revolution against imperial power that extended to the whole Empire
To understand the scope of this debate, we must first recall the conditions in which it took place.
In the midst of the First Imperialist War, in February 1917, the Revolution began in the Russian empire, first in the working-class centres of Petrograd and Moscow, and rapidly led to the fall of the imperial regime. Its development finally led in October 1917 to the establishment of a Soviet government. (5)
The Revolution was directed primarily against the imperial regime, but it took place throughout the territory of the Empire. The national motives for hostility towards the imperial regime combined with the set of political and social demands which were at the heart of the Revolution (rejection of the war, rejection of the autocratic regime, the agrarian question, the struggle of the proletariat for its own demands).
At the same time, the class struggle – basically, the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat – was expressed within each nationality: there were Ukrainian bourgeois and Ukrainian workers, Ukrainian peasants and Ukrainian landowners. Soviets were being formed everywhere, and at the same time the wish for self-determination was being asserted in all nationalities. For example, a delegation from the Ukrainian soviets participated in the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets which declared itself in favour of taking power (6).
This was true for the whole of the Empire, but special attention can be paid to the case of Ukraine, which was the strongest national entity after Russia. The entire territory of what had been the Russian Empire was plunged into a relentless civil war from 1918 onwards. The Soviet government, centred on Petrograd and Moscow, was fighting an uphill battle for survival: it was the fronts of the civil war and their changes that set the limits within which revolutionary power was exercised, not constitutional processes.
But this had nothing to do with a “military conquest” by Russian armies of “non-Russian” territories, because the workers and peasants of those territories were themselves actors in the ongoing upheavals. This does not mean that the tendencies to ensure “Russian predominance” were not at work even within the revolutionary camp, including in the soviets. Trotsky addressed this topic in the chapter on the national question of his History of the Russian Revolution (Ch.39):
The cities, where industry and therefore the proletariat were concentrated, had a largely Russian or “Russified” population, while the countryside remained mostly dominated by the national element. The national question was therefore closely linked to the agrarian question and, at times, the Bolshevik militant activists had to deal with a tendency of the workers’ soviets to ignore the national question.
In the same chapter, Trotsky stressed that “Russia was formed not as a national state, but as a state made up of nationalities. This corresponded to its belated character.” Trotsky vividly summed up this backwardness when he wrote: “Nothing so clearly characterises the historic belatedness of Russia when considered as a European country, as the fact that in the twentieth century she had to liquidate compulsory land rent and the pale – those twin barbarisms, serfdom and the Ghetto.
But in performing these tasks, Russia, exactly because of her belated development, made use of new and utterly modern classes, parties, programmes. To make an end of the idea and methods of Rasputin, she required the ideas and methods of Marx.”
In order to carry out tasks which in Western Europe were accomplished in the bourgeois revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries, a proletarian revolution was needed in Russia. As a result, the complexity of the tasks facing the proletarian government were immense. In particular, recognition of the right of peoples to self-determination – the right to self-determination of all the oppressed nationalities in the Empire – was combined with the reality of the proletarian revolution, spreading throughout the Empire and clashing in a relentless war with the counter-revolution.
Unity of the working peoples and respect for the right to self-determination
When the new government had a certain degree of stability through the crushing of the counter-revolution – the end of the civil war – the problem of the form to be given to the unity of the workers of all the nations which had given a common foundation to their class rule arose in all its magnitude.
For the Bolshevik Party in its entirety, it was not a question of pretending to build a spurious “socialism in one country”, but of giving the most appropriate forms to the demands of workers’ democracy and economic development for the “transition between capitalism and socialism”, in a period when the international class struggle was continuing and would ultimately determine the fate of the system resulting from the victory of the proletarian revolution in one country (7).
Years later, in the article referred to earlier (“The Ukrainian Question”), Leon Trotsky noted that “after the conquest of power, a serious struggle took place in the party over the solving of the numerous national problems inherited from old tsarist Russia. In his capacity as People’s Commissar of Nationalities, Stalin invariably represented the most centralist and bureaucratic tendency. This evidenced itself especially on the question of Georgia and on the question of Ukraine.”
Stalin, who at that time was responsible for the question of nationalities, prepared a resolution on the unification of the various Soviet Republics. His draft considered “the usefulness of an agreement between the Soviet Republics of Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on the formal accession of these Republics to the RSFSR”. As can be seen, the solution proposed by Stalin was that the Republics founded on “non-Russian” territories, which had previously been part of the tsarist Empire, should be purely and simply integrated into Russia, albeit with broad rights of cultural autonomy.
The motion that was finally submitted to the Central Committee on 6 October 1922 was completely different: “To regard as indispensable the conclusion of an agreement between Ukraine, Belarus, the Federation of Transcaucasian Republics and the RSFSR concerning the Union within the framework of a “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”, each of which shall have the right freely to leave the “Union”.”
Lenin in favour of equal rights for all the component parts of the federation
Between these two versions, contradictory on the essentials, there was the resolute opposition of Lenin, who wrote to Kamenev for transmission to the Political Bureau a letter dated 26 September 1922 in which he stated: “we consider ourselves, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and others, equal, and enter with them, on an equal basis, into a new union, a new federation, the Union of the Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia.”
It is often argued that Lenin’s political victory was a sham, that Stalin only retreated on the legal formulation, but that politically it was the solution of integration and subordination to “Russian” power that triumphed.
The argument is based on what became reality following the victory of the bureaucratic counter-revolution. This counter-revolutionary transformation of power and the state apparatus in the USSR obviously had its consequences for the rights of the nationalities – and therefore of the Republics – which made up the USSR.
But this was not the case when the USSR was formed. The retreat of the Stalinist faction was not only due to Lenin’s prestige, but also to the strength of the national democratic demands made by the Bolshevik militant activists of the Ukraine, Georgia and other Republics, with the support of many of the Russian Bolshevik cadres. “Lenin’s last struggle” shows that the Bolshevik Party had not been destroyed as a revolutionary party.
The Swiss historian Andreas Kappeler, a long-time professor at the University of Vienna, who is in no way sympathetic to the Bolshevik Party, acknowledges the fact – which Putin deplores – that with the formation of the USSR, “Ukrainians were for the first time in their history endowed with a national territory recognised by the central state, a territory that included most ethnic Ukrainians and had its own state institutions and symbols. In contrast to the tsarist period, when the “Little Russians” were considered part of the pan-Russian people, they were now recognised as a nation in their own right, with their own language” (8).
The implementation of the Leninist policy on the national question allowed in the short-term a real development on all levels of the nationalities which until then had been oppressed. In the case of Ukraine, this would be expressed by what would be called “Ukrainisation”: among other things, the use of the Ukrainian language in all administrative documents, a wide growth in publications in the Ukrainian language, etc. This policy was not limited to Ukraine, but was extended to all the Republics of the USSR.
The development of the various Republics was such that the bureaucratic counter-revolution, when it attacked what remained of Soviet power, met with resistance expressed even inside the apparatus itself – including by elements that had previously supported Stalin.
Lenin versus Stalin: the question of Georgia
The complexity of the national question in Russia was due to the extremely diverse nature of the different territories under the control of the Russian Empire: some were economically and culturally more developed than Russia and were associated with the development of the Empire itself, while others, conquered more recently, were in fact colonial possessions.
Thus, Tsarist Russia annexed Armenia in 1828. Like Armenia, Azerbaijan was previously disputed between the Turkish Empire and Persia (present-day Iran). Tsarist Russia “shared” the region with Persia from 1828, but Russia’s conquest of Georgia was not completed until 1878. By 1900, Azerbaijan was producing 60 percent of the world’s oil. The political control exercised by the tsarist government was combined with a wide opening-up to the more advanced capitalist powers, especially the British and Germans, who were firmly established in the exploitation of the region’s resources, notably through the Baku-Batumi pipeline.
This region did not remain isolated from the revolutionary developments of 1917. The weak Georgian bourgeoisie proved incapable of securing the national independence they claimed. It was Menshevik leaders who came to power in Georgia and who, in the course of the civil war, sided with the counter-revolutionary forces, relying first on German imperialism and then, after November 1918, coming under the de facto control of British imperialism, which had a military presence in the region.
If it is necessary to insist here on the case of Georgia, it is because the opposition between Lenin’s policy and that of the emerging bureaucracy was first clearly affirmed in the conflict between Stalin and the Georgian Communists who, from the moment they came to power, were the bearers of the legitimate national aspirations of the Georgian people.
The government of Soviet Russia was not in any way opposed to Georgian independence, but was led to oppose the use of Georgia as a platform for attacks against the Soviet regime by imperialist states and Russian counter-revolutionary forces.
In May 1920, the Soviet government signed a peace treaty with Georgia, which was systematically broken by the Menshevik government of Georgia – which formally defined itself as “neutral” but in fact supported the enemies of Soviet Russia. Attempts to reach an understanding between the government of Soviet Russia and the Georgian Mensheviks failed. So, “the Russian Soviet Republic could not, of course, stand aside from this struggle which the Georgian toiling masses conducted against the Georgian Menshevik government, and it was only natural that the workers and peasants of the Soviet Federation should come to the help of the Georgian masses who had revolted against the bourgeois and the landlords.” (9)
The democratic principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, for which the supporters of the proletarian Revolution were fighting, remained subordinated to the overall class interests of the proletariat. It was with extreme caution that the Soviet government was led to engage in military intervention, intended to thwart the plans of imperialism and not to resolve the national question by itself. Stalin precipitated this military intervention. On this point, Trotsky points out in his book Stalin – An appraisal of the man and his influence that “detachments of the Red Army had invaded Georgia on Stalin’s orders, and we were presented with a fait accompli”.
Once again, Lenin’s last struggle
After detachments of the Red Army entered Georgia on 11 February 1921, Lenin sent a telegram (on 10 March 1921) to the Revolutionary Military Council of the 11th Army, unequivocally stating his position: “In view of the fact that units of the 11th Army are on the territory of Georgia, you are instructed to establish complete contact with the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia and to abide strictly by the directives of the Revolutionary Committee, undertaking no measures which might affect the interests of the local population, without co-ordinating them with the Georgian Revolutionary Committee; to observe particular respect for the sovereign bodies of Georgia; to display particular attention and caution in regard to the Georgian population. Issue the appropriate directive at once to all army institutions, including the Special Department. Hold to account all who infringe this directive. Inform us of every case of such infringement, or of even the least friction and misunderstanding with the local population. Lenin, Chairman, Defence Council” (10).
Trotsky underlined “the disagreement (…) between Lenin, who insisted on an extremely flexible, circumspect, patient policy towards Georgia and Transcaucasia in particular, and Stalin, who considered that, since the state apparatus was in his hands, our position was assured” (11).
In complete opposition to Stalin, Lenin demanded (31 December 1922) “a genuinely proletarian attitude” adding that the situation made “profound caution, thoughtfulness and a readiness to compromise a matter of necessity for us”. He thus clearly distanced himself from Stalin, noting:
“The Georgian who is neglectful of this aspect of the question, or who carelessly flings about accusations of “nationalist-socialism” (…), violates, in substance, the interests of proletarian class solidarity, for nothing holds up the development and strengthening of proletarian class solidarity so much as national injustice; “offended” nationals are not sensitive to anything so much as to the feeling of equality and the violation of this equality, if only through negligence or jest, by their proletarian comrades.
“That is why in this case it is better to over-do rather than under-do the concessions and leniency towards the national minorities. That is why, in this case, the fundamental interest of proletarian class struggle requires that we never adopt a formal attitude to the national question, but always take into account the specific attitude of the proletarian of the oppressed (or small) nation towards the oppressor (or great) nation.” (12)
The “Georgian” to whom Lenin refers is, of course, Stalin.
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(1) The USSR was later to integrate other Republics. Some of these were incorporated at that time, others under Stalinist rule, such as the Baltic Republics. What was named the Transcaucasian Republic in 1922 gave rise to the Republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
(2) Putin declared that “in view of the historical destiny of Russia and its peoples, the Leninist principles of state-building were not only a mistake, but far worse than a mistake.”
(3) Leon Trotsky, Writings of Leon Trotsky: 1938-39, Pathfinder Press (1969), pp.301-7. (4) See Moshe Lewin, Lenin’s Last Struggle, Monthly Review Press (1968).
(5) One of the first acts of the Soviet government was a decree on the right of the various peoples of the Empire to decide their own fate on a sovereign basis.
(6) It is not possible to deal in this article with all the events concerning Ukraine from 1917 to 1922, nor with the recent developments that led to the war.
For the latter, reference can be made to Dominique Ferré’s 2014 article reproduced in Issue No.25 (February 2022) of The Internationale, as well as to the documents of the OCRFI, in particular the Declaration dated 28 February 2022.
Regarding the developments of the October 1917 Revolution in Ukraine, Frenchspeaking readers can usefully refer to Eric Aunoble’s article “Question sociale et question nationale: réponses revolutionnaires d’Ukraine (1903-1920)” [Social question and national question: Ukraine’s revolutionary responses] in Issue No.5 of the journal Mouvement ouvrier, luttes de classes et Révolution [Labour movement, class struggle and revolution].
(7) It is a known fact that the so-called theory of “socialism in one country”, which goes against all the teachings of Marxism, was fabricated as an ideological cover for the takeover of political power by the bureaucracy.
(8) Andreas Kappeler, Ungleiche Brüder: Russen und Ukrainer vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart [Unequal Brothers: Russians and Ukrainians from the Middle Ages to the Present], Verlag C. H. Beck (2017).
(9) Leon Trotsky, Between Red and White: A study of some fundamental questions of revolution, with particular reference to Georgia, Appendix:
“Manifesto of the Congress of the Georgian Soviets to Workers of the World”. First published in English by the Communist Party of Great Britain in January 1922, this book is an extremely well-documented defence of the Bolsheviks’ policy in Georgia in the face of international social-democratic accusations of Soviet aggression.
(10) V I Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.35, Progress Publishers (1966), p.479.
(11) Leon Trotsky, Stalin – An appraisal of the man and his influence, Chapter 11. Trotsky had only written the first seven chapters of the book (dealing with events up to 1917) when he was assassinated in 1940 by Stalin’s agent. The incomplete manuscript, including mainly fragments of the later chapters, was edited and translated by Charles Malamuth, and the finished book was published in 1941.
(12) V I Lenin, “The question of nationalities or “autonomisation”, Collected Works, Vol.36, Progress Publishers (1966), pp.6089.
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 The “Constitutional Council” is made up of 9 members appointed by the President of the Republic, the President of the Senate and the President of the National Assembly (i.e., the parliament) respectively, with one third each. Councillors take an oath before the President of the Republic (ex officio members are exempt from this oath).
 Article 49 paragraph 3, known as “provoked censure”, allows the government, during the debates on a text that it presents, to engage its responsibility on this text and therefore propose its enactment without a vote.