Reva Craine Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Reva Craine

World Politics

Stalinist Imperialism in the Ukraine

(9 July 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 28, 9 July 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Under the guise of uniting the Ukrainian people, an agreement was signed between Moscow and the new Czechoslovak government whereby Ruthenia, or the Carpahto-Ukraine, is ceded to Russia.

The agreement states that this action was taken “in accordance with the desire shown by the, population of the Carpatho-Ukraine,” although no mention is made of the manner in which this “desire” has been expressed in recent times. The hint by the Czech premier some months back that the question would be settled by popular vote died a quick death.

The Ukrainian people have for decades been the pawn of imperialist machinations on the European continent. The violation of their desire for national unification and national independence dates back t obefore the First World War when they were under the domination of Russian czarism and Austro-Hungarian despotism. At the end of that war, the treaty-makers who had pledged themselves to abide by the right of self-determination of nations once again trampled on the clearly indicated wishes of the Ukrainian people.

Unification at the end of the first world war could have meant only one thing: the Ukrainian people organized as a united Soviet Ukraine, that is, a workers’ Ukraine federated with the other workers’ republics established by the Russian Revolution of 1917.

To prevent this, and thereby weaken the first workers’ government, the imperialist victors divided up the Ukrainian people, parcelling out the Western Ukraine to Poland, and the Carpatho-Ukraine to the newly-established Czechoslovakia. This latter territory was later organized as the autonomous province of Ruthenia under Czechoslovak rule. Thus was the Ukrainian nation forcibly kept dismembered.

As war once drew near, the Ukrainians were subjected to further shifts. In 1938, Hitler took Ruthenia from Czechoslovakia and handed it to Hungary in exchange for an alliance. In 1939, as one of the stipulations of the Hitler-Stalin pact, Russia obtained Western Ukraine when she seized the eastern half of Poland.

The Yalta agreement of the Big Three gave Western Ukraine to Stalin once more. The latest move, cession of Ruthenia to Russia, has finally “united” all the Ukrainian people in Europe.

But this is a far cry from the national unification and independence which the Ukrainian people have so long wanted. Unification under the dictatorship of the Kremlin means unification in a prison, not national freedom.

Difference Under Lenin

In the early years after the Russian Revolution, the many nationalities federated in the Soviet Union enjoyed all the privileges of nationhood plus the advantages of cooperation. The Soviet constitution provided that the Soviet Union be based on voluntary adherence, and granted to each nationality the right of self-determination, including the right to separate from the Union, if it so desired. Finland obtained its separation from Russia without even having to go through any prolonged negotiations. Lenin simply signed the request placed before him.

The right of national self-determination, that is, the right of a people to decide for itself how it shall be governed, was one of the many democratic rights achieved by the workers’ revolution in Russia. But this right, as well as all other democratic rights, has long ago disappeared in Russia under the rule of the Stalinist oligarchy. Just as these other rights remain only on paper in that country, so does the right of self-determination.

Trotsky’s Position

As far back as 1939, Leon Trotsky, in writing about the question of the Ukraine, indicated that national rights, guaranteed by the Russian Revolution, had disappeared. He advocated the organization of an independent Soviet Ukraine as the only means by which the Ukrainian people could obtain national unification and freedom.

Everything that has happened since that time, the forceful annexations and incorporations of territories by all the imperialists, especially the Russian, indicates that the struggle fornational freedom cannot be left to he carried on in the negotiating chambers of the big powers, but must be conducted by the masses of the people themselves as a part of the struggle for all democratic rights and socialist emancipation.

Reva Craine Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 14 December 2017