The position outlined by Trotsky, in previous parts applies equally here to the role of Russia in Ukraine. The Crimea was a part of Russia going back a very long way, prior to it being transferred to Ukraine by the USSR. If the people of Crimea, and other ethnically Russian parts of Ukraine, wish to rejoin or join Russia they have a democratic right to do so. Generally, speaking, Marxists, whilst upholding that right, and opposing any use of force to prevent it, would still argue against separation. The imprisoning of nations frequently provides the grounds for reactionary nationalists to ferment division. For example, had the Sudeten Germans never been trapped inside Czechoslovakia, Hitler would not have been able to make such a play over demanding their liberation.
However, depending on how events play out in Ukraine, it may be one of those “exceptional circumstances” that Lenin referred to, when we would advocate separation. The highly nationalistic nature of the regime in Kiev has already been manifest in its decisions in banning the Russian language as an official language. The government is made up of a number of extreme right-wing nationalist and fascistic elements, with others, including some who fought against Russia in Chechnya, and, therefore, having links with Al Qaeda related clerical-fascists, pressing further to the right on the streets. One Ukrainian MP has called for the country to restock its nuclear arsenal, a development the US and EU seem to have little to say about, given their position in relation to Iran.
Marxists should oppose any attempt by the regime in Kiev to prevent the ethnic Russians in Ukraine from seceding. But, we should also oppose any attempt by Russia to intervene to bring it about, just as we would have opposed Hitler's invasion of the Sudetenland, or Britain's intervention in the Falklands.
Our role is instead to argue for a solution based on the greatest unity of the working-class inside and across borders. Our demand is not for bourgeois democratic national self-determination, but as Lenin said, for the self-determination and self-government of the working class.
Back To Part 5
Back To Part 5