To put an end to the war there must be a revolt from the lower ranks of society

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
June 26, 2023

When Prigozhin's rebellion failed, so-called experts on Russia speculated wildly. What did the tragi-comic episode hide? Was it an attempted putsch or the snapping of a mad dog? Has Prigozhin become indispensable or will he end up drowned in his bath tub? Will we see the hardening of Putin's regime with purges and intensified fighting in Ukraine or will we see its decomposition?

Anything is possible. The power struggles at the top of the Russian state apparatus to gain influence and get ahead are never-ending and kept secret. And they must be all the more ferocious right now as Putin’s power is weakened by the war in Ukraine and its failures.

The key point to keep in mind is that the main figures, whether it be Putin, Prigozhin, defense minister Shoigu or the Belarusian despot Lukashenko, all represent a single social class made up of businessmen, those notorious oligarchs, who prosper within or behind the scenes of a thoroughly corrupt and authoritarian bureaucratic apparatus.

Zelenskyy and his clique in Ukraine come from exactly the same mold. They have the same principles, the same cynicism, the same contempt for the working class.

They are all vultures and know how to get along just fine in oppressing their population, exploiting workers and appropriating the country's wealth. When they feel mistreated, they are also capable of tearing each other apart. But they all stand for the same policy, one of oppression and plundering.

Prigozhin’s life as a gangster-turned-businessman mirrors the mafia-like oligarchy where acting unscrupulously is one of the most important qualities to have. Prigozhin, a former bandit condemned to 9 years imprisonment, met Putin by welcoming the Russian jet set to his luxury restaurants in the 2000s. Millions started pouring in when the commander of the Kremlin signed major contracts with him to cater for hospitals, schools and the army.

Then Prigozhin expanded his business and gained influence by developing the Wagner group of mercenaries. First he was Putin’s cook, then he became his butcher, ready to do the dirty work in Syria, Libya, Africa and the Donbass region. With maybe 25,000 fighters in Ukraine, the Wagner militia has been used as shock troops, even very recently.

Has the monster escaped from its creator’s control? In any case, tension has been rising between Prigozhin and the Russian general staff for months. Prigozhin had won part of the battle by getting the Wagner troops integrated into the regular army, which would explain Prigozhin’s open rebellion.

One thing is certain: the population has nothing to gain from these schemes and palace revolutions. The only rebellion that can put an end to the war is one that comes from the lowest ranks of society, the soldiers and the working class who suffer the consequences of this terrible war.

We all remember the anti-war demonstrations that broke out in February and March 2022. On top of the 300,000 drafted soldiers, the army has to scour prisons and take out its cheque book to get new recruits. And there’s no need for official statistics to estimate the hundreds of thousands killed or wounded in this war. In the poorest regions, where most of the fighters come from, some cities have already enlarged their cemeteries.

After 17 months of carnage, opposition - or at least resentment and suspicion - have only increased. It is true that the army chiefs are sending soldiers to be slaughtered and stealing their pay, and Prigozhin is certainly not the only one accusing them of it. And he's not the only one who suspects the high command of inventing reasons to invade Ukraine to win themselves more stripes!

The revolution of 1917 was carried out by workers, soldiers and peasants to put an end to the atrocious war, overthrow the czar, landowners and exploiters. Another similar revolt could very well happen.

That’s what Putin is afraid of, just like the United States and other imperialist powers looking on. Their wait-and-see attitude is proof that the world leaders would rather deal with a dictator who they can weaken in an endless war than be faced with any destabilization that could lead to a revolution.

For workers in Russia and in Ukraine, such a revolution would bring tremendous hope. It’s the only way to ensure peace between oppressed peoples and to overthrow oppression altogether, whether it be by the bourgeoisie or mafia-like oligarchs!

Nathalie Arthaud