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Polemic on RevLeft around the IAC appeal on the war in Donbass

Article #2,

continued from "The Nature of the War in Ukraine"

1) "Gavrilo93" sees the above IAC appeal as “Russian imperialist propaganda”. Question: since when the Russian Federation has been added to the “imperialist” country list?

If “imperialism” is an international policy of finance capital, as defined by Lenin, Rudolph Hilferding, and John Hobson, then since when Russia has been a dictatorship of “finance capital”? How has it managed to change its class nature? By lowering the flag of the Soviet Union in “deep and dark December” of 1991? Kind of easy and unlikely way of changing a class nature of a state. I get a feeling that "the revolutionary left" doesn't bother about studying texts about imperialism, or anything at all, for that matter...

2) Supporter of IAC see the fight of “the people in Donbass” as “about national self-determination, against fascist Ukraine”. Wow! I didn’t know that we have a separate “nation” in Donbass region, although some Russian left “theoreticians”, such as Alexander Tarasov, have managed to find cultural differences between Eastern part of Ukraine and central and Western parts, and explain the war from these differences.

To tell you the truth, there are as many differences between the East and West of Ukraine as there are between the East and West of the United States. For example, would you call California and New York different nations? Obviously, not. 

3) "Gavrilo93" comes with a version of “national self-determination”, only from the other side: “It is the Ukrainians who want their national self-determination against fascist Russia. Russia uses the Russians who live in Ukraine to make a claim on their territories.”

So much Gavrilo93 "knows" about the actual people who are fighting in Donbass. In reality, both Russians and Ukrainians fight on one side and the other. From my personal experience, people of Russian ethnic origin residing in parts controlled by Kiev are greater "patriots" of Ukraine then Ukrainians. This finds its analogy in recent emigrants to the United States being greater American "patriots" than native-born Americans who are often critical of their country. 

Gavrilo 93 presents a Ukrainian nationalist point of view on the war. According to this, Russia always wanted to opress Ukraine, and the current war is just another attempt at subjugation.

4) I love statements like this, coming from Ale Brider: “Poroshenko is a nationalist oligarch, and it would be the duty of Ukrainian people to get rid of him”. Ok, why not reverse the statement, and say: “Trump is a nationalist oligarch, and it would be the duty of the American people to get rid of him”. How does that sound? You people there in the U.S. don’t know your “duty”, and I am here, in Ukraine, informing you on what you must do.

But there is more: “to propagate creeping Russian imperialism and irredentism as national self-determination is also wrong. The people of Donbass are need to be saved from the crazy nationalist rage of Poroshenko, but they also need to be saved from the paternalist embrace of Putin and Russia.”

Ok, so again we have “Russian imperialism” theory and “paternalist embrace of Putin and Russia”. The point of view of Ukrainian nationalism and view of Russia as "imperialist" - that subscribed to by most Western left, especially supporters of "state capitalism" theory of the USSR - coincide. 

5) Supporter of IAC reacts: “the Ukrainian uprising of 2013-2014 was *reactionary* and led to quick U.S. imperialist involvement and neocolonialism”. Have you seen many "reactionary" popular uprisings? And no doubt: the events of 2013-14 were massive. What if I would call “Occupy” movement “reactionary” just because the goals of the movement were not clear to its participants? Wouldn’t you label me as an “idiot” and "reactionary"? Again, maybe such pearls are permissible only to Western “leftists” about the "not –so-conscious people" of Eastern Europe. Photo below: Euromaidan in Kiev, 12/2013.

A few passing remarks on why Euromaidan was so popular. What got people angy was the rule of Yanukovich, who is a well-known gangster with time in jail.

Small and medium size businessmen were angry with him because his clan was confiscating their properties. Law of bying and selling are not the main laws of operation in the transitional countries. In the former USSR, it is the type of operation known as "Otzhim", which is translated as "pressure", in other words - extortion. For example, Poroshenko has taken over the bank of Kolomoisky in December 2016; the leaders of Donetsk People's Republic have taken over the factories of Akhmetov, one of the wealthiest Ukrainian oligarchs residing in Kiev. This type of functioning of economy explains why mafia plays such a prominent role in the life of the society. In fact, the ruling class of Russia, and other similar countries, has been called "mafia", as it is a symbiosis of former state functionaries and gangsters. The process of criminalization has started way back in the Soviet times, as is witnessed by the book "Партия или мафия: разворованная республика" (A Party or a Mafia: a Plundered Republic), written in 1970's by a prominent Soviet sociologist, who escaped from Azerbaidjan to Israel. The phenomenon of mafia in the former USSR in 1990's is analyzed in the book "Великая криминальная революция: мафия у власти" (The Great Criminal Revolution: Mafia in Power) by Professor A. Tille. 

Incidentally, this debunks the popular myth that "capitalist class" is in power in Russia, Ukraine, etc. In reality, it is a type of temporary co-habitation of former middle and high level officials from Soviet times with gangsters. Witness the following clip from a popular Russian movie "Брат-2" (Brother-2). 

The common people people were dissasfied with the regime of Yanukovich because it continued the policy of dismantling the socialist society, its institutions which benef the people, began in the earlier times. For example, people were protesting against lack of free medicine, corruption in the educational system which is supposed to be free, etc. Below you can see a very limited collection of stickers which were popular during Euromaidan. They say: against bribes to the road police, for honest courts, not against Russia but against sell-out functionaries, etc. 

This protest was felt and channeled by the oligarchs who were disstatisfied with Yanukovich clan as well. One of them was Kolomoisky (mentioned above), who lost his control of an airline ("Aerosvit"), in 2012 to the son of Yanukovich. 

Moreover, as Yanukovich was a pro-Moscow politician, dissatisfaction with him was felt in Washington as well. Photo below: American senator MacCain speaking at Evromaidan. Behind him on the right stands a leader of a proto-Nazi party "Svoboda". Original name: "Social-National Party of Ukraine".  

Thus, popular protest combined with dissatisfaction of expropriated business owners, combined with global opposition between Washington and Moscow, produced the phenomenon of "Euromaidan" in 2013-14, and the following coup, which replaced the Yanukovich clan with Poroshenko, Kolomosky and other pro-Western oligarchs.  

Incidentally, the phenomenon shows that a previously uniform bureaucracy of the Soviet times tends to split into two antagonistic camps, coinciding with class divisions on the global scale. One camp of bureaucracy supports the imperialism of the United States, and the other opposes it. The former camp takes on nationalist, even Nazi clothes. The later one dresses in the rags of the communist movement of XX century. This is what we now see in Ukraine...

6) A “leftist” point of view, from Brad: “One does not have to support Putin to be against a blatantly fascist régime in Ukraine. One does not have to dream of a global Russian empire to oppose Ukrainian forces shelling homes in Donetsk, as U.S. diplomats quietly discuss who they favour installing as Ukraine's new President.” I didn't know that the regime in Kiev is “a blatantly fascist regime”. Again, if “fascism” is dictatorship of finance capital in a society, just like imperialism is its policy abroad, then when did Ukraine turn to being “capitalist”? When it declared its independence of the Soviet Union in 1991? Or maybe in 2004, when it installed a right-wing Yuri Yuschenko, as President? Or maybe 2014, when it threw out that bandit Yanukovich? We need a coherent point of view.

The Kiev regime is not "blatantly fascist". It is extremely nationalist. It is anti-communist. And it is split between many centers of power, just like China was in the period after its 1911 revolution. Each of the warlords has his own private army, called officially "volunteer batallions". The most numerous are sponsored by Kolomoisky, for example "Donbass", "Azov", etc. (More information here, in English, and here, in Russian). But there is still an even stronger Ukrainian army and Security Service, controlled by Poroshenko. Poster below explains the relative strengths of the Ukr. army and "volunteer batallions" in more detail. 

Ukraine is not a fascist state because "fascism" by defition is a policy of capital in crisis. But Ukraine is not a capitalist state, yet.

Ukraine is a turf where we now see an active re-division of state property. The latest turn in that drama is the expropriation by political means of Rinat Akhmetov, Dmitry Firtash and Igor Kolomoisky. 

7) General Winter makes a regime-changing proposal: “The question was whether the residents of Donbass were to be forced to follow the fate of small, impotent, half-civilised Ukranie [Gee! Didn't know we were "half-civilized". Thanks for all the epithets, but then anything different from a Western "leftist" is hardly to be expected], and to be the slaves of West for ever, or whether they should be allowed to re-unite themselves to a nation of 140 millions, which was then just engaged in the struggle for its freedom, unity, and consequent recovery of its strength. We are naturally the last to reproach Putin for this. On the contrary, what we reproach him with is that he was not revolutionary enough ["Putin" and "revolution" somehow don't match]... that he began a whole revolution [!] in a position where he was able to carry through only half a revolution, that, once having set out on the course of annexations, he was content with Crimea.”

According to this point of view, the coup of 2014 should have been followed by a coup engineered and carried through by Russia. The popular feeling is totally disregarded by General Winter. No wonder, as we're 'impotent" and "half-civilized". Somewhere, I have heard a similar rhetoric before... Was it Hitler with his concept of "uber mench"? Or was it in Vietnam?

8) The concept of “national self-determination” is a ruse in the modern world. It is a ruse used by the powers in struggle for global influence to advance their interests. For example, Giant Monkey Man writes: “As communists we should support the self-determination of all peoples and if that means the people of the Donbass and the people of the Crimea feel their future is best served in the sphere of Russian power then so be it”.

But what does "people of the Donbass" mean? For example, I am living on the same floor with a  guy (a doctor), and he is a refugee in Kiev, because he wanted Luhansk to stay a part of Ukraine. He feels that if he would have stayed in his city, he would be "taken into a basement”, which has become a typical manner of getting rid of oppositionists in south-eastern Ukraine. 

9) And I simply “love” statements as the following: “Ukranians are naive people misled by neo liberal propaganda and oligarchs making money from it; those in donbass are terrorists supported by russia and its criminal oligarchs; the cause of the war - territory and natural resources under it.” You see, we’re naïve, and hence have no idea about what’s going on in our backyard. But a Western “junior revolutionary" Mike N will explain to us that “those in donbass are terrorists supported by russia and its criminal oligarchs”, while those in Kiev are “misled by neo liberal propaganda and oligarchs making money from it”. He forgot to inform us about what our duty is, as previous fellows attempted.

According to Mike N. “the cause of the war - territory and natural resources under it”. The territory was always there, and will remain there. Why did the war start in 2014? What were its causes?

And the same guy repeats the same condescending attitude here: “Ukraine is a nation of poor naive people who after having been through decades long oppression gathered enough courage to break off the fetters of russian reign. But they did not understand what they were doing and as it usually happens instead of bringing change the uprising resulted in replacement of one group of corrupt politicians by another of the same kind.” 

Ok, let's try it the other way: "America is a nation of poor naive people... But they didn't understand what they were doing". For example, I'd write this in reference to Donald Trump victory.

Iron Cross to Mike N.

10) When a person is perplexed, as was the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, this sounds much better: “We have to face that there is NO well thought-out communist analysis of the Donetsk-conflict”. This is the truth. Our goal is to provide such analysis.

11) Mike N, after being awarded an Iron Cross by us, inches closer to truth when he compares the conflict in Donbass to the Chechen conflict in Russia: “Could you have come up with an analysis for the similar Chechen conflict (1994-2004)? Could you have imagined it had ended in one day after a corresponding decision in Moscow, the Chechen republic becoming as wealthy as Saudi Arabia, with every citizen there receiving a monthly payment and the russian enemy Kadyrov becoming the biggest fan of Putin of all times?”  

Frankly, I often listen now to the sad songs of Timur Matsuraev, who sings of the war of Chechens against Russia, as I ponder on the war in Ukraine. One of my favorites songs is called “Jerusalem”. Watch the video, and you’ll see a conflict similar to the one now in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is not unique. It was played out before in Chechnya. Many years ago, I have watched with my students the movie "Savior" by Oliver Stone, on the civil war in former Yugoslavia, and discussed it as the possible future for Ukraine. This is a type of war for re-division of state property and material resources played out in former "socialist" countries. 

This implies a certain methodology. We should not look for "ethnic differences" between East and West of a country, nor between Russian and Ukrainian mentality. Rather, we should examine such conflicts as long drawn-out drama of an attempt at Restoration of pre-revolutionary social relations. This is just an episode in Revolution on its downslide. 

And don't give me that crap about "naive" and "semi-civilized" Ukrainians, for it is here that people such as Leon Trotsky were born and raised! 

Next: Victor Shapinov and his "Marxism and the War in Donbass"

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