In Background, Ukraine, Victor Shapinov

By Victor Shapinov, Borotba (‘Struggle’) political association in Ukraine, June 22, 2014

If there is a violation of the principle of territorial integrity, the apocalypse will come, the sky will fall, and the fish will walk on the land. These are the statements of most Ukrainian media and politicians over the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People Republics. Territorial integrity is the overriding principle of international law, they try to convince us. Those who violate it are separatists, and will be damned forever and ever, amen.

But let us imagine that the “fundamental principle” was never violated. Kiev would still be, if not the administrative center of Genghis Khan’s empire, or a province of the German Reich, then certainly the capital of the province of some anti-Soviet capitalist union. Instead of such countries as the U.S., India, Pakistan, Canada,  and Australia — the existence of which is a flagrant violation of the territorial integrity of the British Empire — the map would flaunt one and indivisible possession of the crown. The list goes on. Just to say that there would be no such countries as Norway, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Albania, Finland, all African countries …

And what about international law?

Speaking seriously, without violating territorial integrity, modern nation-states, whose establishment was a great achievement compared with the feudal and capitalist empires, would not exist. There would be no independent states that emerged as a result of the national liberation struggle against colonialism and imperialism in the twentieth century. Just look at the political map of the world to understand the falsity of Kiev’s interpretation of “territorial integrity” and “separatism.”

The very principle of territorial integrity was adopted by the United Nations after the Second World War not to hold small or large nation under foreign oppression, but to effectively oppose the annexation policy, political grabs. According to the provisions adopted by the media mills of victorious fascism, the desire of the people, whose rights are violated in a particular state, is above the “principle of territorial integrity.”

This, incidentally, is not recorded anywhere; and it says in the United Nations Declaration on Principles of International Law, of which Ukraine is a signatory:

All peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to respect this right.

Establishment of a sovereign and independent state, free association with an independent State, or any other political status freely determined by a people, constitute that people’s right to self-determination.*

That is, the statements of politicians and journalists that the movement of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics for independence is contrary to international law, are lies. Why could Ukraine or Russia violate the territorial integrity of the USSR when they seceded from it, but Donbass cannot? Only because the Soviet Union, in the framework of the dominant neoliberal discourse, is considered a “totalitarian empire” and Ukraine an “emerging democracy”?

What if the people of Donetsk and Lugansk do not want to live in an “emerging democracy” where political opponents are burned and killed, as in Odessa, where dissidents are arrested, as in Kharkov, where tanks and shelling are used to restore the “single country”?

International law is not a fetish. What of the crimes against international laws on human rights violations committed under the pretext of dealing with breaches of territorial integrity? They are rights for the people, not just for the “right” people.

Democratic solution

The right to self-determination is the only way to a democratic solution of such contradictions. And the only democratic solution would be consistent implementation of this principle both in Russia and in Ukraine. However, Ukrainian politicians who appropriated the name “democrats” refuse to recognize it.

A nation cannot be free if it oppresses other nations — this long-known truth continues to “work” today. Lack of a democratic solution to the language problem in Ukraine allows assorted politicians, capitalizing on artificially-inflated linguistic contradictions, to sit on the neck of the Ukrainian people. Now they “sit on bayonets,” sending young Ukrainians to kill their fellow citizens, raising war hysteria to continue the pillage and plunder.

Of course, the right to self-determination, like any other law, can be used for evil. A minority in one country may become a pawn in the hands of another power. A national movement may be headed by feudal forces more reactionary than the state from which it is trying to get “self-determination” (e.g., Tibet). Not every case of separation leads to positive results.

However, the only way to preserve friendly relations between peoples with different languages in a large state, which is generally more profitable than small ones, is complete national and linguistic freedom. The absence of any privilege for any language or nationality. An example of national unity on the basis of equality of languages and peoples is Switzerland, where not only the French and Italian spoken by 19% and 8% of the population respectively, but Romansh, which is used by less than 1% of the population, are officially recognized state languages.

A reverse example is Turkey, where the powerlessness of the Kurdish people led not only to the civil war that has lasted for several decades, but to usurpation of actual power, first by a group of open militarists, then through a covert military dictatorship associated with the U.S. Sure, some people would like to implement a “Turkish” option in Ukraine. However, the majority of the population, of course, would prefer the “Swiss” way.

A free, federal and democratic Ukraine without oligarchs and nationalists is the only way to keep “one country.” While Ukraine has no such policy, please consider me a “separatist.” The Donetsk Peoples Republic and Lugansk Council, with all their flaws, are much nicer than sinking into the frank fascism of the Kiev model.

* From ‘The principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples’, contained in Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, October 1970.


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