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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”

“The pitch of class political struggle in Russia is as high as ever,” the KPRF declares. “The persecution of communists and party supporters, even after the start of the military operation in Ukraine, shows that there is no class harmony between the KPRF and the present ruling elite. One can cite many examples of our comrades being subjected to repressions. Our response to the persecution of our comrades is robust. By the same token, we are vehement critics of the government’s socio-economic policy. No other party in Russia can claim that it has been a more active critic of the authorities.” The KPRF statement of May 16 can be read in full here.

Source: https://cprf.ru/ 

“With the blessing of its American principals,” the statement goes on, “Ukraine was preparing to launch a military operation to seize Donbass and then Crimea in early March of this year. There is a solid body of evidence to confirm the existence of these plans. The Banderite regime has been preparing for this war for eight years. Servicemen were subjected to relentless ideological brainwashing in the spirit of rank Russophobia. Powerful strongholds were being created and the army was provided with the latest weaponry.”

“In line with its imperialist geopolitical goals the US was gradually drawing Ukraine into the sphere of its military interests turning the country into a NATO spearhead determined to fight Russia ‘up to the last Ukrainian soldier.’ Since 1991 Ukraine, its industry and resources were objects of super-exploitation by US and EU monopolies. The Russian oligarchy did not take part in ‘dividing the pie’ which was in the sphere of Western interests. Moreover, the Russian oligarchy was against the military operation in Ukraine. It was striving to become integrated in the world oligarchy and was already under massive pressure from the West which urged it to exert pressure on the government to induce it to preserve Russia’s pro-Western orientation.”

“Besides, the Russian oligarchs suffered considerably from the Russian military operation in Ukraine. They were put under sanctions, and are seeing their palaces and yachts taken away from them and their bank accounts frozen. We do not have the slightest sympathy for those who have been plundering Russia for three decades and are now being deprived of their loot. We merely want to stress that the Russian oligarchy was not only not interested in the military operation, but has suffered from it. By refusing to back this operation, big business has lost not only its property and money, but its influence within the Russian ruling elite.”*

“Note which class forces were the fiercest opponents of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. These were above all big monopoly capital, its political representatives in the liberal milieu and their ‘creative’ lackeys among the so-called intelligentsia.”

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov lays flowers at Joseph Stalin’s tomb at the Kremlin Wall on March 5, 2021, marking the 68th anniversary of Stalin’s death. For comparison of the latest KPRF paper on the US role in directing the Ukrainians against Russia, read Stalin’s assessment of the role of the Entente – France, UK, and the US – in directing the Polish attack on Russia in the war of 1918-1921.

Beyond this statement, issued in Russian and English, there has been no public debate by the communists in Moscow or further criticism of the Greek communists. This week’s Russian statement concludes on a conciliatory note towards Athens: “Remembering the heroic deeds of the Communist Party of Greece in the struggle against Nazism and against the military dictatorship, we categorically brush aside the idea that our comrades could have consciously joined the camp of those who today try to crush Russia with Ukraine’s hands. We reiterate our profound respect for the KKE as a party which has made an immense contribution to the revival of the international communist and workers’ movement after the collapse of the USSR in 1991… We are for a comradely dialog which has always helped communists all over the world to understand the essence of events and work out their correct, genuinely Marxist approach to their assessment.”

The Greek communist statement was dated February 24, and then circulated for their endorsements to several dozen communist parties and groups, most of them outside Europe. The form of the statement which drew the Russian reply was published in Rizospastis,  the KKE newspaper in Athens, on April 23.  “The decision of the Russian Federation,” the KKE said, “to initially recognize the ‘independence’ of the so-called ‘Peoples’ Republics’ in Donbas and then to proceed to a Russian military intervention, which is taking place under the pretext of Russia’s ‘self-defence’ the ‘demilitarization’ and ‘defascistization’ of Ukraine, was not made to protect the people of the region or peace but to promote the interests of Russian monopolies in Ukrainian territory and their fierce competition with Western monopolies. We express our solidarity with the communists and the peoples of Russia and Ukraine and we stand on their side to strengthen the struggle against nationalism, which is fostered by each bourgeoisie.”

The KKE added: “The anti-communist rhetoric against Lenin, the Bolsheviks, and the Soviet Union to which the Russian leadership resorts to justify its own strategic plans in the region, is unacceptable. However, nothing can tarnish the enormous contribution of socialism in the Soviet Union, which was a multinational union of equal Socialist Republics.” Click to read the original in English here.    

Six days later, the KKE produced a further statement on the issues in conflict between the Greeks and Russians. Read it here:  https://inter.kke.gr/en

For the blunt paper attacking Moscow by AKEL in Cyprus,  click.  That appeared on March 2  Then on May 17, the day after the KPRF replied to the criticism in Moscow,  Toumazos Tsielepis an AKEL leader,  went on a Cypriot radio station to say “Ukraine is also responsible for this war, because of its declared intention to join NATO, making it clear at the same time that the Russian invasion cannot be justified under any circumstances.    

Left to right: KKE General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas; Stephanos Stephanou, head of AKEL; Yanis Varoufakis, a short-lived finance minister in Athens and now leader of the European Realistic Disobedience Front ( MeRA25),  Varoufakis frequently attacks President Vladimir Putin by name. “Don’t forget how in the Nineties, even the reformers — liberals, neoliberals in Russia — were crushed by the West, by the International Monetary Fund, forcing Russia into an awful default in 1998 that caused the life expectancy of men in Russia to drop from 75 to 58. It was a catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe. And Putin, being a KGB strategist, utilised that pent-up frustration of Russians against the West in order to build up his horrid empire.” Varoufakis also supports the US economic war against Russia: “when sanctions are slapped on a dictatorial regime they hurt the people, not the dictators. Especially in the case of Putin. Putin has a war chest, which is quite large. And he doesn’t care about the plight of Russian people. But let me be clear on this. I’m not against the sanctions. Watching the atrocities coming out now — the towns, the villages that the Russian army has vacated — watching the devastation on the coastal areas of eastern Ukraine, I can understand why people say, ‘look, we simply do not want to trade with these people — we’re not going to let them have access to their yachts, and to their money, and all that,’ that’s fine by me.” Source:  https://www.yanisvaroufakis.eu/

The KPRF spokesman in Moscow was asked to explain the silence which has followed Monday’s party declaration. He replied:  “our comment to the article of the Greek Communist Party is not intended for a broad polemic, but as an explanation of our position on the essence of the issue to inform the Greek Communist Party, as well as the [other signatory] Communist and workers ‘ parties.”

Asked why the KPRF had not answered the sharper criticism from the Cyprus communist party, as it has done the KKE, the party spokesman has not replied.

The KPRF and its leader Gennady Zyuganov have an ambiguous record towards the Russian oligarchs. For example, in 2003 they were supportive of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s plan to sell the Yukos oil company to ExxonMobil; at the time the party had accepted Khodorkovsky’s men on the KPRF election list in return for payment.  In 2019, this is how a Moscow court case brought against Zyuganov by Oleg Deripaska, the aluminium oligarch,  ended.    Reluctance to criticize the Patriarch on the Russian constitutional separation of Church and state,  was reported here.   Since the Russian military operation began, the KPRF has found a newly critical voice not heard before on the oligarch Roman Abramovich; he was attacked for his back-channel role in negotiations with Kiev, while the Alfa Bank oligarchs Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven were accused of “hav[ing] their own interest in relation to the special military operation”.    

The KPRF is the leading opposition party in the State Duma, winning 19% of the national vote in the September 2021 elections and taking 57 of the 450 seats. In March of this year, the US State Department and Treasury imposed sanctions on 340 deputies of the Duma; included on the target list were Zyuganov  and Ivan Melnikov, his deputy in the party and first vice-speaker of the Duma. Maria Drobot, the only woman on the Central Committee and a Duma deputy first elected last year, was sanctioned, together with Nikolai Kolomeytsev, seventh rank on the Central Committee and head of the Rostov region party committee, and Dmitry Novikov, eighth rank. By contrast, several other KPRF Central Committee members and Duma deputies have not been sanctioned -- Sergei Obukhov, third ranking on the Central Committee,  Vladimir Kashin, fourth ranking Nikolai Vasiliev; fifth; and Leonid Kalashnikov, sixth.  

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