Kremlin propaganda, fellow travelers, and the third Russo-Ukrainian war

Hieronymus Bosch. "The Magician"

Hieronymus Bosch. "The Magician" 

2015/04/07 • Politics

Article by: Stephen Velychenko

The Propaganda

Those who know their history realize we are witnessing the 3rd Russo Ukrainian war. The first began in December 1917 and ended in 1925 when the CHEKA reported no more serious Ukrainian partisan resistance. The second began in 1944 and ended in 1950 when the UPA was no longer a cohesive fighting force. The third began in March 2014 when Russian snipers killed two Ukrainian soldiers in Simferopol. [1]

But this is not how Russian leaders regard today’s war. They claim a CIA plot overthrew a legitimately elected president and sparked a civil war. Ukraine’s Russians, supposedly facing forced Ukrainization or death, are fighting a criminal junta to save Ukraine and Europe from fascism and exploitation by evil capitalists. These four claims are at the core of an anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign that compliments the billions of dollars Russian leaders channel into the accounts of pro -Russian neo-nazi and fascist parties as well as the US and EU 1%.

Underlying these claims is a fifth proposition, or assumption, that appears infrequently in foreign media but is held by Russia’s counterparts to US neo-cons: Putin, Sechin, Surkov, Glazev, Karaganov, Gundaiev, and Dugin. In their project for the new Russian century, termed Russkyi mir, Ukrainians andUkraine do not exist. This assumption echoes the early 20th century writings of conservative and right-wing (Black Hundred – Chorna sotnia) empire loyalist thinkers like Sergei Shchegolev, Piotr Struve, Aleksandr Volkonskii Anton Budilovich, and Dmitrii Markov, who identified Jews, Masons, Catholics, Germans and Poles as the evil godfathers of Ukraine and Ukrainians. White émigrés later added Bolsheviks to this list of malefactors. Intellectual respectability to this assumption today is provided by academics like Tamara Guzenkova, Ukrainian Section head at the Russian Institute of Strategic Research and  Andrei Marchukov who, using contemporary theories about culture identity and nationality, explain Ukraine and Ukrainians are modern inventions. [2]

According to this particular discourse there are only Little Russians in a territory that always was and is Russian. Inhabitants who do not regard themselves as Russian and have no wish to be ruled fromMoscow are either traitors, dupes or idiots. Batu Khan tore apart a supposedly united people in 1240, Stalin set things right in 1940, and Putin is correcting Gorbachev’s mistakes. At best, Ukrainians are artificial inventions of Russia’s enemies and might be allowed an independent existence in what was the Habsburg region of eastern Galicia. Those who think Russian history begins with something called Kyivan Russia are predisposed to agree. From such a perspective, normal loss of empire becomes Russian national tragedy and the destruction of a natural geopolitical order – which is assumed to actually exist. It is of no concern to those who share these assumptions that former Russian subjects see nothing tragic about imperial collapse or natural about its existence.

Upon examination Kremlin propaganda makes no logical sense. Russia cannot be both capitalist and anti capitalist. If Ukrainians do not exist, there can be no Ukrainian Nazis or fascist state that represses or kills Russians, or forces them speak a language that doesn’t exist. Ukrainians cannot have been invented simultaneously by Papists, the Jewish Masonic conspiracy, German Protestants, Polish Catholics and Russian –Jewish Bolsheviks. Putin cannot simultaneously be saving the world from fascists by fighting them in Ukraine while supporting them in the EU. Thus, the ten million dollars he gave to French fascist Marie Le Pen no doubt made it easier for her to keep a straight face when she condemned Maidan as a neo nazi coup.

But Kremlin propositions should not be seen in terms of logic. They must be approached as rationally formulated messages designed to appeal to specific audiences by confirming their preconceptions. The purpose is to justify either the reimposition of a lost imperial domination over Ukraine, or to fragment it into a tiny principalities, while simultaneously, to weaken  the EU.

Today’s Kremlin leaders fear that an Orthodox Slavic population including millions of Russian speakers living in a big stable democratic European Ukraine would represent a threat to their authoritarian rule by providing a visible  alternative to it  for Russians.  To that end it is in their interest to keep Ukraineas poor and unstable as possible. They also desire the EU to be as weak and as small as possible so they can deal with it  from a position of strength without having to make undesirable compromises withChina. This involves creating tiny  puppet regimes like the Transnistrian,  Luhansk, Donetsk or “New Russia”  “Republics” while simultaneously undermining the EU and its US ties by targeting countries and groups to exacerbate any and all differences between and among them. So the propagandists tell liberals Ukrainians are fascists, leftists that they will enrich corporations as cheap labour, Jews that they are anti Semites, anti-Semites that they are part of the world Jewish conspiracy, Russians and cultural Russophiles that they are artificial and don’t really exist, Europeans that that they belong in “Greater Europe” or the “Common European Home” – but only as part of the Russian dominated  Eurasia and not the EU.

Because people as a rule accept messages that confirm their presuppositions and ignore those that do not, the targeted are amenable to Kremlin propositions. Some believe  and disseminate them of their own volition. This article will deal only with three targeted groups, each of which influence to varying degrees opinion and/or policy within their various countries. For this reason as fallacious or nonsensical as Kremlin propositions are they deserve attention nonetheless. The first two groups are foreign pro-Kremlin liberals and leftists who either don’t or don’t want to realize that they cannot simultaneously advocate self-determination anti-imperialism and Kremlin interests. The third group are foreign anti-Ukrainian Conservatives.[3]

What the Propaganda omits

First, Russian “Ukraine denial” is too broad an issue to adequately cover within the space of this article.[4] It will only be noted here that, according to modern theory, Ukrainians are indeed “invented” and, as such, no different from other nations in so far as all nations are the products of specific policies and circumstances — including the Russian. Marchukov and others like him, however, do not apply contemporary theory to their own country and nation. In blatant contradiction to the modern theoretical premises they use, they implicitly or explicitly depict Russia and Russians as something ahistorical unchanging and eternal.[5]

Second, there is no east-west civil war in Ukraine. The occupied territory is the eastern part of the easternmost provinces. It is approximately 30% of two provinces inhabited by 6-7% of Ukraine’s population of which 40% are ethnic Russians. Significantly, these provinces and Crimea are the only 3 of Ukraine’s 25 regions that have a majority of Russian speakers. Only Crimea has ethnic Russian majority (60%). In a 2014 poll that showed 12% of the entire population supported annexation toRussia; the figures were 24% for Luhansk 33% for Donetsk provinces, and 41% for Crimea.[6] In early 2015 an estimated 40% of the population in the occupied region was pro Kremlin. Observes now think  this percentage is dropping as the  rebels cannot provide jobs, services, or keep store shelves supplied. They are destroying rather than rebuilding infrastructure, planting mines this spring rather than crops and, stories of starvation have  emerged. Criminality has also increased with the return of armed deserters with nothing to do.[7]

Ukraine’s Russians are not a typical settled acculturated immigrant minority. During the last century Russian settlement occurred in conditions unlike those in North America or established European states. The settlement resulted in a “mixed settler” type colony. Ukrainian provinces, and later the Ukr. SSR was controlled by a centralized bureaucracy and media which ensured urban settlers in particular did not have to learn and use Ukrainian in daily life. Thus very few developed any sense that they were living among a foreign population and had to acculturate to make their way in life. Since jobs and mobility depended on Russian language use, native Russians and culturally assimilated Russian-speaking ethnic Ukrainians, despite formal legal equality with Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians, had higher status, more education, better social connections, and more wealth than Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians. Between 1897 and 2014, accordingly, the Ukrainian speaking majority declined from 76 to 67% of population while the declared- Russian minority increased from 10 to 24%. This is a characteristic of a mixed- settler colonial territory. The politically active within the socio-culturally dominant Russian minority, for their part, were empire loyalists.  They did not become creole anti-imperialists like British settlers in North America, the Spanish in Latin America, or White Rhodesians.

Empire loyalist opinions and attitudes were reinforced and promulgated by local oligarchs and communists after 1991, who, in return for politically supporting the ruling clan in Kyiv, got cheap credits, subsidies, and de facto regional autonomy. This included control of the regional media which they used to blame local unemployment, low wages, and bad infrastructure on the collapse of the USSR and “Ukrainian nationalism,” a catch-all term of abuse which like Russian leaders, they equated with Nazism. Local politicians maximized re-broadcasting from Russia, systematically reduced what Ukrainian language newspapers existed, and during elections would cut broadcasting from central TV channels and local stations too critical of local conditions. In Donetsk province, where 38 per cent of the population were Russian-speaking Russians, there were approximately 1000 Russian-language newspapers and magazines and one Ukrainian language newspaper. In 2005, provincial politicians stopped the subsidy of 43 000 hryvnia they had provided until then to schools and libraries for the Ukrainian paper and voted a 800 000 hryvnia subsidy to those institutions to buy the three major Russian newspapers.[8] The local oligarch-communist ideological monopoly was reinforced by socio-economic dependency. The Donbas has most workers in huge industrial enterprises still run as company towns in the soviet style. These are paternalist neo feudal estates where normal life depends on loyalty because today oligarch-owners, like state directors before 1991, still provide goods and services, from day-care to funerals, that are more important than wages.

Donbas also has highest percentage of people in Ukraine ignorant of any foreign language except Ukrainian – and even that is normally passive knowledge. Donbas has  the fewest who have traveled west, and the lowest saturation of central Ukrainian media. That monolingual majority accordingly prefers Russian to Ukrainian audio-visual media which, since it comes mostly from Russia, is not only Russo-centric by content and mostly pro – Kremlin politically, but also, since 2006, increasingly anti Ukrainian. This Russian language media preference and availability is significant, because Kremlin anti Ukrainian propaganda is overwhelmingly in Russian.

In light of such circumstances, the war in Ukraine’s east is not a conflict between two aggregates of individuals pursuing their self-interest within a country that each considers legitimate. Rather, the conflict is a national war against anti government groups allied with foreign Russian troops that do not identify with Ukrainian culture or territory but with the imperial metropole. Both the anti government groups and the imperial metropole leaders consider Ukraine illegitimate.

During the course of the 20th century, leftists and liberals never considered a group based on a settler-colonist minority supported by an imperial metropole fighting to remain part of empire, to be fighting a civil war. Such groups then, like Ukraine’s pro-Russian groups today, fought to continue imperial rule. Comparatively, therefore, those dissatisfied with Ukrainian independence resemble United Empire Loyalists in the American colonies, pro-Nazi Sudeten  Germans, the pro imperial French in Algeria, Ulster Loyalists, and Portuguese in Angola. All these groups fought against the national independence of the countries in which they resided and not Civil Wars.

After 1991 Ukraine’s symbols and school curricula changed but the public communications sphere and media remained overwhelmingly Russian. The ruling elite and most of the population remained culturally Russophile and the government was pro Russian. Speaking Ukrainian in public still carried social stigma. Russians and Russian speakers remained more educated and wealthier than Ukrainian Ukrainians. This hindered Ukrainian nation building but, because the Russian minority retained its socio-cultural dominance, loyalists most dissatisfied with the collapse of the USSR and Ukraine’s formal political tie to Russia, were isolated and dormant.

That changed in 2004. Putin, fearing the “Orange Revolution” would threaten his rule, from 2006, the same year his United Russia party signed a cooperation agreement with the Party of Regions, began to finance train and expand anti- Ukrainian groups including extremist neo nazis. Their activities helped stymie reform, fomented political instability and then helped bring Ianukovich to power in 2010.  Putin then thought he had neutralized the “Orange” threat peacefully and ensured Ukraine would remain under Russian domination.

In 2014, faced with millions on the streets calling for EU membership, Putin invaded. Russian special forces using the previously trained loyalist extremists grabbed government buildings in Crimea Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukrainian troops initially defeated these goon squads who were primarily Russians born inUkraine. Russian troops intervened to stop them at Ilovaisk. Since then, most of the Ukrainian- born Russian rebels  have been either killed or run away. Kremlin hired mercenaries and Russian troops on Ukrainian territory as of March comprised an estimated 80%  of an approximately 30 000 strong  anti-Ukrainian force. [9]

Russian leaders thought Ukraine’s Russians and Russian speakers would welcome Putin en masse as did Austrians Hitler in 1938. They did not. Twenty years of independence had turned the descendents of settler-colonists into acculturated immigrants. Outside the eastern fringes of the eastern provinces, a patriotic ethnic Russian and Russian speaking Ukrainian majority had developed who, even if they liked Pushkin’s poetry, did not like Putin’s politics. Today Russian speakers and ethnic Russians fight alongside Ukrainian Ukrainians and, as of January 2015, no more than 5% in unoccupied south-eastUkraine supported annexation.[10]

The third fallacious Kremlin propaganda claim is that Ianukovich was overthrown by CIA led nazis. What this ignores is that Ukrainian rightists on Maidan no more made it fascist than did Anarchists in the Occupy Movement make it anarchist. Both groups had a visibility disproportionate to influence. Perhaps 7% of Maidan protestors belonged to any political party and, of the 12 000 strong Maidan Defence Battalion 450 were declared rightists. Whatever CIA involvement there was, meanwhile, no more detracts from the dissatisfaction that brought millions into the streets, than did KGB involvement detract from the dissatisfaction that brought millions into streets in Latin America or Asia.

Maidan US and EU leaders, for their part, did not conspire against but negotiated with Ianukovich to keep him in power. Perhaps, during those months, intelligence chiefs were pursuing their own agenda’s in direct contravention of their government’s policies. But if that was so, no one has yet demonstrated it. In any case, Ianukovich fled of his own volition after which the Rada removed him by a unanimous vote that included all his own party. Hundreds of thousands in the streets, peaceful until attacked, protesting arbitrary government, nepotism and corruption, while politicians were negotiating with the president to remain, does not constitute a “coup.”

The fourth dubious, if not fallacious claim, is that Ianukovich was legitimately elected. This is dubious because Russian and Ukrainian elections cannot be considered legitimate in the European understanding of the process and, least of all in the Donbas company towns where the Party of Regions and Communists got most of their votes. To appreciate what Donbas and then post 2010Ukraine were,  one must imagine an entire country like the US frontier town Deadwood or 1850s New York under Boss Tweed. Since the dirty tricks were mostly done before and after, and not on voting day at polling stations, foreign observers saw little if anything and reported fair elections. Ill informed political analysts then repeated these conclusions. The blackmail, intimidation, bribery, phony parties, dead souls, stacked election committees, and rigged lists, however, are traced and documented by more knowledgeable scholars as well as journalists.[11] In light of such studies Ianukovich was, at best, as legitimate as George Bush. Political analysts should spend some  time comparing Ukrainian elections with the 2004 US presidential election, to determine who copied from whom: right-republicans from Russian Communists or Russian communists from right-wing republicans.

The Kremlin’s fifth propaganda claim is that Poroshenko’s government is fascist. Now, if like Mussolini, we define fascism as marriage of corporation and state, then Ukraine’s government is fascist. But then, so is the American, Canadian, British, Japanese and Russian government. Otherwise, in so far as fascism involves youth cult, leader cult, military cult, imperial myths; phony parliaments, phony unions, no non natives in institutions, then it is not. The two parties Right Sector and Svoboda are conservative and, together got no more than 2% of the vote in the presidential election. Svoboda has an anti-Semite, xenophobic minority wing leaders cannot control. That minority, moreover, as a reaction to imperialist Russian supremacists and Ukrainophobes in the Party of Regions, Communist Party, and various neo nazi groups, should disappear when its Kremlin sponsored rivals disappear. Ukraine’s real fascists, White Hammer, Social-National Assembly, Brotherhood, and Patriots, are smaller than their EU counterparts and few except  specialists know they exist.

The Fellow Travellers on the Left

Pro-Kremlin leftists and liberals seem to think Putin’s Russian neo-liberal capitalism preferable to Anglo- American and European neoliberal capitalism and tolerate his imperialist drive to maintain Russian hegemony if not full control over Ukraine. Such people seem to think that the rapacious and destructive greed of big bankers and corporate owners/managers in Russia is preferable to that of their European and American counterparts, even though the former enjoy a degree of independence from governmental regulation that some of the latter can only envy. They see no similarity between Putin and his Eurasianists and George W. Bush and his Neo-Cons. The pro Kremlin leftists do not condemn Putin for turning Russia into an kleptocratic autocracy or label as imperialism his expansion west and south. Much concerned about the activities of the CIA and NSA in Ukraine they show no similar concern for the activities there of the GRU and FSB.

Since 1991, such leftists have been either been silent on or supportive of regimes in China, North Africa, Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe, the Congo, and most recently, fundamentalist Islamists and fascist Arab Baathists. Such leftists ignored issues like the Chernobyl disaster, the North Korean government purchase of submarines from Russia for millions of dollars in 1994 during the height of the country’s famine, and the massacres in Rwanda. Today to this list one can add Putin’s Russia and neo Nazi and fascist parties – both EU and Russian. Alongside issues such as Russophilism, material interest and simple ignorance, another explanation for this double standard is that such leftists analyze events in terms of anti-Americanism rather than anti-imperialism. This attitude results in condemning Anglo American European neo liberal capitalism but not Russian neo liberal capitalism.

Anti Americanism is a set of beliefs that classifies imperialism as a singular specific American rather than global phenomenon and discounts or ignores competition between imperialists and intra capitalist rivalries. Anti Americanism bears little relation to Lenin’s concept of many rival imperialist ruling classes divided within and engaged in an unending struggle with one another. Instead, anti Americanists restrict “imperialism” to a single US dominated bloc without fundamental intra ruling- class differences. Such a perspective leads leftists to see the world as a stage for a duel between a capitalist USA and NATO on one side, and capitalist Russia on the other. On this manichaen stage, Ukraine must remain Russian so the US and NATO do not get stronger.[12] Middle or working class Ukrainians who see benefit in the EU, the massive support for the Maidan and, the prospect of support from Ukrainian leftists in the fight against neo liberal capitalism within the EU, have no place on this stage.

Those who hold such preconceptions are naturally amenable to Kremlin propaganda. For them, those who support EU membership for Ukraine are dupes in a fascist plot, run by the USA and NATO and its new puppet Kyiv “junta” government. Ukrainian national ambitions and independence are synonymous with what they and Russian rulers call fascism. They ignore that EU negotiators and Maidan leaders were urging Yanukovych to remain in power, that the 10s of thousands on Maidan reluctantly agreed with them, and that he fled of his own volition. Appalled at the prospect of Anglo- American corporations making money from Ukrainian misery as they are appalled at how they continue to extract resources from former European colonies, these liberals and leftists  are not appalled by the prospect of the Russian state and its ruling elite continuing to extract resources from its Ukrainian colony– as they have been doing since the 18th century.

Ukraine specialists are quite aware of what some have called the Ukrainophobic rantings of Stephen Cohen. However, this historian who before 2014 never wrote a scholarly article about Ukraine, yet suddenly felt obliged to pontificate about the country, is not an isolated voice. He is the tip of an iceberg of anti- Ukraine and pro Kremlin liberal and leftist publicists, journalists, commentators, who, like him, for the most part ignorant of Ukraine, its history, its language, as of 2014 suddenly began defending the foreign policy interests of Russia’s ruling class in its former de facto colony. Although these writings are little if at all known by Anglo-American academics specialists on eastern Europe and Russia, they do figure in the mass media and  influence ill-informed popular opinion. They undoubtedly played a role in ensuring  that in 2014 there were no mass non-Ukrainian organized demonstrations in any European or North American city supporting Maidan – even though it was a “people power” movement directed against a corrupt puppet regime of a capitalist and imperialist power.

Pro Kremlin Leftists and Liberals include people like Paul Craig Roberts, John Pilger, Oliver Stone, John Helmer, Thomas Hartmann, and Anatol Lieven, who echo the Kremlin’s anti Ukrainian propaganda on sites like Greenleft, Naked Capitalism, World Socialist Website, Counterpunch, Globalresearch, Institut dela Democratie et Cooperation, Voltairenet,. Human Rights Investigations, Ukrainian Human Rights, Marxist.com, Stopimperialism.com, and Canadian Dimension. Few of these sites list who finances them. How many are funded by the Kremlin, is unknown.[13] These leftists and liberals, contrary to their avowed principles of anti-imperialism and self-determination, write and disseminate pro-Kremlin articles that identify the new conservative Ukrainian government containing Russians and Jews and Georgians and Lithuanians, as a fascist “regime” exploiting Russians and “invading” eastern Ukraine that risks starting World War III. They do not explain how a government can invade its own territory and ignore the Russian troops fighting on Ukrainian territory. Like conservatives, they consider Ukraine to be  inRussia’s “sphere of influence” and that it should stay there. They do not consider that the majority ofUkraine’s population prefer not to stay there, and that Russia risks starting World War III by breaking international treaties and invading their country.

A representative  published collection of pro Kremlin liberals and leftists (S. Lendman ed., FlashpointUkraine. How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III [Clarity Press, Atlanta] appeared in 2014.[14] Lendman explains in the introduction, the book illustrates how anti- semitic “Washington supported putschists” staged a coup d’ etat more brazen than Mussolini’s and established mob rule (15). There follow 24 articles by people, who, with the possible exception of perhaps 3 or 4, are not know to have ever written any scholarly article on either Ukraine, or Russia. While some of them, like Michael Hudson or Michael Parenti have written serious analytical studies related to America and neo liberal capitalism, the judgment logic and scholarship that they showed in those works are not in evidence in the speculative ramblings on Ukraine that they penned for Mr. Lendman.

The editor set the tone of the collection in his comments about Washington (that is, the USgovernment): “Millions of corpses attest to its barbarity. Replacing independent governments with subservient pro-Western ones is longstanding US policy” (9). He makes no analogous assertions aboutMoscow or Petersburg, their corpses, or their longstanding policies towards neighboring independent governments. Leftists who would not dream of claiming India or Ireland are “inseparable parts ofEngland’s past” nor hesitate to use the term colonialism when writing about them, nonetheless, in this book write “Ukraine’s history is inseparably part of Russia’s past” and do not use the term colonialism in reference to Russian rule (138). The authors’ underlying preconceptions and logic, like those of all pro Kremlin liberals and leftists, contradict their avowed leftist, liberal, and in some instances, Marxist principles.

When in power Russian communist leaders were unperturbed by Nazis or fascists as long as they were pro Russian. Thus, Stalin’s treaties with Fascist Italy (1933) and Nazi Germany (1939) – that obliged Stalin to deliver refugee German communists back to Germany. Those leftists in Europe who thought state control of the economy amounted to socialism dutifully accommodated themselves to these treaties. When Hitler invaded in 1941 and made Nazism and Fascism anti -Russian Stalin and his associates made “anti fascism” synonymous with pro -Russian. Their formula did not distinguish between fascism and Nazism and is parroted today by leftists. This had profound implications for non Russians in the USSR opposed to a Kremlin rule that they identified with Russia. Basically, Stalin’s new formula permitted his representatives and supporters to label all non Russian opposition fascist and, implicitly, Nazi. What is most terrible about Nazis in this formula are not their crimes but their anti-Russian politics.

This semantic trick discredited opposition to Russian rule in the eyes of uninformed foreigners much more effectively than the term “anti- Russian” could have done by adding a class characteristic to a national issue. The authors in Flashpoint, accordingly, consider any assertion of Ukrainian national interest synonymous with “Nazi.” Lendman, thus, quotes the Odesa Chabad Rabbi Wolf, which he misspells as “Wold,” about supposed “Ukrainian anti Semitism” —without mentioning that Ukraine’s chief Rabbi and most Ukrainian Jews have both supported the Maidan, and condemned the Chabad Rabbis for pandering to Putin. He did not mention the Jewish Battalion fighting Russian troops in Donbas.[15] This kind of selective omission is characteristic of the entire book.

With the collapse of the USSR it would have seemed that foreign leftists and liberals would no longer support the new Russian neo liberal capitalist government. In any case, most foreign leftists ignoredRussia and Ukraine. They broke their silence in 2014 when they condemned Ukraine’s Maidan protest. They do not condemn the Russian government’s annexation of the Crimea, or its sponsorship of separatist anti -Ukrainian Russian neo Nazis armed gangs in eastern Ukraine. They are silent on GRU and FSB subterfuge. Today pro Kremlin foreign leftists support Russia’s neo-liberal capitalist government and imperial ambitions just like earlier they had supported its supposed socialist government.[16]Purporting much concern about exploitation and despoliation, they, like all the Flashpoint authors, have no interest in any evil they cannot link to the US government or corporations nor in any peoples who suffer from such evil. Their anti-Americanist convictions predisposes them to support the Russian ruling class, condemn the US government and corporations for all the world’s evil, and blinds them to their double standards and hypocrisy.

Michael Hudson, for example, thinks Ukraine must remain dependent on Russia because it is economically tied to it and that severing those ties would result in destitution. This argument was also used by Russian industrialists, bankers and Black Hundred leaders one-hundred years ago to justify Russian rule over Ukrainian lands. Hudson and his likeminded  apparently don’t realize that, in so far as all empires and dependencies are economically tied to each other, it follows that no dependent population anywhere should secede from any empire, in which case self-determination, anti colonialism and anti imperialism would make no sense. Yet no leftists or liberals argue like this — except in the case of Ukraine.

For all their concern over corporate control over US and EU media, none of the Flashpoint authors, including the media specialist Michael Parenti, refer to Russia ranking 148 out of 179 countries rated in the Press Freedom Index or, that as of the summer of 2014, Putin’s government had either closed or muzzled the country’s last major independent media outlets. They either do not or do not want to know that in Russia and its dependencies since 1991 as many as 300 journalists have been murdered by armed gangs.[17] Parenti either does not know or does not care that, in so far as any of the leadings personnages in official Russian outlets like, Dmitrii Tsorionov, Alexander Prokhanov, Sergei Kurginyan, Margarita Simonyan, Dmitry Kiselyov, Igor Osadchii, Evgenii Prigozhin, Mariia Kuprashevich, Vladimir Solovyov, or Arkady Mamontov, ever had anything to do with Marxism or socialism in general, then it was only of the official Soviet Stalinist variety. His concern over the “corporate media’s cold-war bias,” does not extend to Kremlin bias.

Pro Kremlin avowed anti- imperialist and secularist foreign leftists and liberals hae no qualms reiterating and disseminating what are basically capitalist, traditionalist, clericalist,  and imperialist governmental pronouncements. Putin declared at the ceremony marking the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, forgetting about the Jews and the Chinese, that the Russian people are the largest geographically disconnected people in the world and that he sees it as his job to protect and unite them all in a single state. Hitler expressed similar desires about diaspora Germans – both unconcerned about whether these peoples wanted to be “reunited” or “protected.” Like its tsarist precursor, todays government includes the head of the Russian Orthodox Church –  now called Patriarch instead of Oberprokurator. While not all academics consider Putin’s government fascist they do consider it right-wing authoritarian. For Russian leaders, a high percentage of whom together with their Oberprokurator made their careers alongside Putin in the KGB, Ukrainian independence is a “historical accident.” Ukrainians are really “Little Russians” loyal to Russia, not much different from Russians. They are unrelated to a supposed minority of extremist nationalists who, obsessed with a perverse idea of independence. Ukrainian citizens who want political cultural and economic independence from Russia, who think that the citizens of a country should know and use the language of the majority of that country, as is the case everywhere else in Europe including Russia, are extremists fascists and Nazis who will repress Russians.[18] Such ideas are normally attributed to Alexander Dugin although they include elements of official Stalinist ideology, although as noted their roots go back to various early 20th century loyalist rightist extremists then called “Black Hundreds.”

The Flashpoint authors condemn Ukrainian “fascism,” which, like Kremlin officials, they do not distinguish from Nazism. They focus their spite on Ukrainian conservatives, the right and extreme right, which they do not distinguish from each other. They ignore the much more powerful revanchist Russian extremist right in Russia and Ukraine whose aim is to re-colonize Ukraine within a very much capitalist tsarist-type Russian empire. [19] These avowed leftist and liberal authors remain silent about the Ukrainian national question and Ukrainian anti-colonialist thought. They do not consider the political and economic pressure Putin’s government exercises on Ukraine that radicalizes Ukrainian liberal nationalism. They make no mention of Russian colonialism, Russian imperialism, Eurasianism, Russian militarism, or the linguistic/cultural russification of non Russians. Concerned about Russians who complain that having to use Ukrainian in Ukraine is “oppression”, despite the dominance of Russian in Ukraine’s public communication sphere and government support for Russian language media and schools, they make no mention of the lamentable condition of the Ukrainian minority in Russia.  The almost 2 million strong diaspora there, except for one community funded Ukrainian language newspaper, have no Ukrainian media, schools or  governmental financing whatsoever.

We find no critique in Flashpoint or any of the listed sites of men like Dugin Surkov Gundaiev, or Glazeev – the counterparts to Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeldt.  No scrutiny of  Kremlin ties to and sponsorship of EU neo Nazi’s, nor Russian neo Nazi groups in Ukraine.[20] There is no reflection on why Ukrainians after 1929 stopped associating communism with national liberation – unlike populations throughout Asia, Africa, and Western Europe. All of which amounts to hypocrisy  that ignores the misery of millions who prefer not to live under the Russian version of neo liberal capitalist imperialism. Pro Kremlin liberals and leftists can moan the collapse of the Russian empire, praise Putin’s attempts to restore it, yet condemn other empires and praise their collapse. They condemn Europeans who reject Russian domination, yet celebrate Latin Americans who reject US-Corporate hegemony. They condemn anti Kremlin Ukrainian fascists but not pro Kremlin French or Russian fascists and neo nazis.

Supporting the anti-colonial violence of the colonized against various American sponsored dictators all over the world, pro-Kremlin liberals and leftists, nonetheless, condemn the anti colonial violence of the colonized against Russian sponsored dictators. According to this kind of logic  they would have supported the Ottomans against the Greek revolutionaries in 1821, the French who opposed Algerian independence, the White Rhodesians, and the northern Ireland Protestant UVF.

Leftists who repeat the Kremlin’s warnings about the horrors of Anglo-American neo liberal capitalism, meanwhile, ignore that Russian neoliberal capitalism is worse and that Ukrainian workers would be very pleased if Ukraine were like Greece or Spain or Poland. These critics of corporate capitalism even argue that foreign corporations should oppose sanctions against Russia because they will suffer loss of profits.

The Fellow Travelers who do not accept old British or Spanish or French imperial myths and like to advocate the interests of their former subjects, nevertheless, share the Russian myth of an eternal imperial mother Russia and explicitly deny the claims and interests of its former subjects. They fail to see that, like other elites once did, the Russian today still invokes old myths to justify an imagined imperial eternity and its territorial claims. This kind of hypocrisy only helps Kremlin leaders delay the inevitable demise of Russia’s empire and ensure that before it does it causes much totally unnecessary death and destruction.

The Conservative Fellow Travelers

Alongside leftist and liberal pro Kremlin sympathizers are conservatives and the neo liberal capitalist 1%. The former leave Ukraine to the Kremlin because they believe imperial spheres of interest trump self determination. They divide the world into regions where one power can do as it pleases while others ‘interfere” as interlopers and inhabitants should accept their fate. These are people like John Mearsheimer, Henry Kissinger and those at the Nixon Centre and the Cato Institute. Like liberals and leftists they usually know little if anything about Ukraine. But, unlike their counterparts, anti-Ukrainian conservatives are not guilty of faulty logic or double standards, because their position flows logically from their balance of power premises. Providing such people with more information is unlikely to change their attitude.[21]

Perhaps the threat of nuclear proliferation in the wake of the failure of Britain France and the US to enforce the ill-fated Budapest Memorandum might lead such conservatives to rethink where they should draw the  borders of their spheres. Conservatives thinking in terms of sphere of influence played a key role, it should be remembered, in influencing French and British politicians to acquiesce to Hitler’s seizures of the Rhineland, Sudetenland and  Czechoslovakia. The words of A.J. P Taylor writing about the views pro-German  conservatives like Georges Bonnet, Antony Eden and Edward Wood (Lord Halifax) in the 1930s are hauntingly applicable  to their contemporary pro Russian counterparts: “Hitler could do what he liked in Eastern Europe; he could demolish Czechoslovakia or invade the Ukraine.” In 1939 these conservatives finally drew the line with Poland. Perhaps, when Putin’s agents in Polandbegin complaining that Russians there having to learn and use Polish are being persecuted and need protection, today’s conservatives might also again draw the line with Poland.

Besides academics, anti Ukrainian conservatives group include direct and indirect Kremlin agents. Men like Schroder, De Villiers, and various poverty-stricken English lords, are direct agents peddling Kremlin interests in return for billions in business deals. Others are indirect agents. In Ukraine this would include corporate vultures like the owners and directors of Monsanto who make money from misery in a fine example of “disaster capitalism.” In the EU this group would include corporate owners and bankers who, for no other reason than profit, intrigue with and bribe elected politician to pass legislation that privatizes and deregulates national economies in the interests of banks and corporations.

Indirect Kremlin agents are not politically pro Russian or necessarily Russophiles. But in Ukraine, by doing things like financing unsustainable petro-chemical monoculture plantations instead of traditional or organic farming, they give credence to Kremlin propaganda and discredit EU ideals. Among this group should also be included the speculators now buying Ukrainian debt on the cheap and IMF loan conditions. These men, and women like Christine Lagarde, normally pursue profit relentless and ruthlessly. If after the war they force the government to sell public assets and minimize public services to realize their profits, then it will mean impoverishment for the majority of the population and the destruction of the middle class.

In the EU, corporate owners and their agents who enact policies that turn the middle and skilled working class into part time Walmart clerks eating at McDonalds and living on credit also benefit Putin and discredit EU ideals. In response to their destruction of the Keynesian social-democratic post-war order, more Europeans now vote for extremist anti- EU parties – who then block pro- Ukrainian resolutions in EU institutions. While there are reformists like Stiglitz, Soros and Sachs, among the capitalist 1%, they seem to be unable to stop the suicidal policies of the majority. The fate of reformist Strauss-Kahn, who the majority managed to displace with hardliner Christine Lagarde via a phony sex scandal, is indicative of the current balance of forces in global financial institutions.

There remain two crucial issues. The first concerns how many corporate owners and directors will support sanctions politics derived from liberal-democratic principles, if those sanctions seriously hurt profits? For such men things like imperialism, nationalism, self determination, human rights, spheres of influence or national interest are just abstractions. The only things that matter are financial transactions, economic markets, cheap labour, raw materials and customers. The second issue is whether debt speculators and bond holders will annul Ukraine’s debt and agree to let it keep its currency, like they did for Poland, or, will they collect by forcing the government to sell public assets on the cheap and dismantle services – thus nullifying any benefit the population would gain from EU membership? In light of the successes of popular protests and reformism European history perhaps the one optimistic  prognosis for Ukraine is that it would sooner see  the re- establishment of a Keynesian Social Democratic order of the sort that the IMF, World Bank, WTO and US government have been systematically destroying the past 20 years,  as an EU member, than it would by remaining part of Putin’s neoliberal capitalist empire – where such an order never existed to begin with.


[1] The most recent survey of Ukrainian history with extensive annotated bibliography: P. R. Magocsi, A History of Ukraine. The Land and its People 2nd ed. (Toronto, 2010). The most recent survey of the events of 2014: A. Wilson, Ukraine Crisis What it means for the West (New Haven, 2014). A convenient short summary: http://www.ucipr.org.ua/publications/the-ukrainian-crisis-between-the-identity-policy-and-confrontation-to-the-russian-world/lang/en. Recent works on Putin’s Russia: K. Dawisha, Putin’s Kleptocracy : who owns Russia? (New York, 2014); P. Pomerantsev, Nothing is true and everything is possible: the surreal heart of the new Russia (New York, 2014); M. Van Herpen, Putin’s wars: the Rise of Russia’s New Imperialism (Toronto, 2014); B. Judah, Fragile empire: how Russia fell in and out of love with Vladimir Putin, (New Haven, 2013); L. Shevtsova, Russia. Lost in Transition (Washington, 2007).

[2] Although there is nothing inherently wrong in “knowing thy enemy” and it is difficult to hold scholars responsible for how others use their ideas, Marchukov’s and Guzenkova’s  kind of politicized  scholarship about Ukraine brings to mind Nazi specialists in Hebraic and Jewish studies. In both instances we have scholars producing work that fits a governmental ideological crusade against a targeted group. A. E. Steinweiss, Studying the Jew; Scholarly Antisemitism in Nazi Germany(Cambridge, MA, 2006).

[3] Pro Russian extremist rightists and neo Nazi’s are studied by Anton Shekhovtsov: http://www.shekhovtsov.org/

[4] Magocsi, A History of Ukraine, 12-25; A. Wilson, The Ukrainians Unexpected Nation (New Haven, 2000); S. Plokhy, Unmaking Imperial Russia: Mykhailo Hrushevsky and the Writing of Ukrainian History (Toronto, 2005); idem, The Origins of the Slavic Nations (Cambridge, 2006); idem Ukraine and Russia. Representations of the Past (Toronto, 2008); S. Velychenko, “Nationalizing and Denationalizing the Past: Ukraine and Russia in Comparative Context,” Ab Imperio no. 1 (2007) 477-94.http://www.historians.in.ua/index.php/dyskusiya/853-stephen-velychenko-new-wine-old-bottle-ukrainian-history-muscovite-russian-imperial-myths-and-the-cambridge-history-of-russia. See also the website: http://likbez.org.ua/en/.

[5] A Marchukov, Ukrainskoe natsionalnoe dvizheniie: URSR 1920-1930 gody (Moscow,2006). For a list of Guzenkova’s writings:  https://catalog.lib.uchicago.edu/vufind/Search/Results?type=AuthorBrowse&lookfor=%22Guzenkova%2C+Tamara+Semenovna%22&sort=title.

[6] http://www.interpretermag.com/few-in-ukraine-including-in-the-east-support-separatism-or-joining-russia-poll-shows/; http://dif.org.ua/ua/events/nkdfkedlkrjgkje.html; http://wnu-ukraine.com/news/culture-lifestyle/?id=4308

[7] https://informnapalm.org/3158-narodnye-bunty-na-donbasse; https://informnapalm.org/6385-odin-god-iz-zhizni-gorlovki

[8]Ukrainska Pravda http://pravda.com.ua.news/2006/12/6/52006.html.http://maidan.org.ua/static/news/1138094819.html. http://texty.org.ua/pg/article/movchun/read/41135/Ukrajinska_mova_vtrachaje._

http://khpg.org/en/index.php?do=search. J. Szostek, “Russian and the News Media in Ukraine: A Case of ‘Soft Power?’” East European Politics and Societies no. 3 (2014) 463-86.  A. Pohribny, Zhyva dusha Donbasivskoho Kraiu (Kyiv, 2006). As of 2006 the formal legal owners of Ukraine’s major newspapers and television stations were roughly equally divided between those with neo-soviet Russophile and national democratic sympathies. 43 owners of the major Ukrainian stations, internet sites and newspapers and of these thirty had identifiable political sympathies. Four of the owners of the major six national TV stations were neosoviet Russophiles. One, Poroshenko, supported Iushchenko. The sixth, Viktor Pinchuk, who then declared himself apolitical, is now pro EU.

[9] http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2015/03/12/7061231/

[10] http://mw.ua/UKRAINE/survey-81-4-of-ukrainians-are-against-russian-intervention-in-donbas-conflict-863_.html

[11] A. Wilson, Virtual Politics (New Haven, 2005); S.M. Fish Democracy Derailed in Russia (Cambridge, 2005); M. Kovalov, “Electoral Manipulations and Fraud in Parliamentary Elections: The Case ofUkraine,” East European Politics and Society no 4 (2014): 781-807. See also the Maidan.org.ua website under the relevant years.

[12] http://www.lee-harris.org/2341/the-intellectual-origins-of-america-bashing; P. J. Katzenstein, Anti-Americanism in World Politics (Cornell, 2007).

[13] http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ca/2014/02/what-west-should-know-about-euromaidans.html;http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ca/2014/02/pro-russian-network-behind-anti.html; http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.ca/2014/01/italian-fascist-socialists-call-for.html. Criticatac.ro/lefteast posts views of both sides. The ostensibly liberal Institut de la Democratie et de la Cooperation is Russian funded. There is no evidence Voltairenet.org is Kremlin funded. Its founder, Thierry Meyssan, whose concern about French and Ukrainian right-wing extremists does not extend to Russian neo Nazis, is associated with the official Kremlin journal Odnako.

[14] One of the authors, James Petras, owns Clarity Press, which, judging by its titles seems to function as a latter day  Progress Publishers.Whether or not by coincidence, socialist Petras has located his press in Georgia, which has the lowest minimum wage in the US. http://minimum-wage.findthedata.com/

[15] http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2014/07/ukrainian-jewish-leaders-condemn-chabad-kremlin-crimean-meddling-345.html; http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/163972/jews-in-maidan; http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2014-03-26-portnikov-en.html

[16] On pre 1991 sovietophiles and political Russophiles: S. R. Marguiles, The Pilgrimage to Russia The Soviet Union and the Treatment of Foreigners 1924-1937 (Madison Wisc., 1968); D. Caute, The Fellow Travellers (London, 1977); P. Hollander, Political Pilgrims (New York, 1981); S. Koch, Double Lives. Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas against the West (New York, 1994). Sovietophiles were sometimes called “useful idiots” – a term mistakenly attributed to Lenin.

[17] http://www.ifex.org/russia/2009/06/24/partial_justice/.  http://journalists-in-russia.org/journalists/. Today there are only three major independent Russian English- language media organizations that do not toe the Kremlin line on Ukraine. As the Moscow Times and Petersburg Times are foreign owned, leftists presumably ignore them as tainted “western capitalist” media. Novaia gazeta carries very little on Ukraine and, as of September 2014, appeared only in blog format.

[18] http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/3130165/posts; http://www.examiner.com/list/russia-s-top-80-lies-about-ukraine; http://www.ji.lviv.ua/n18texts/okara.htm. Despite considerable pro Russiasentiment among Crimean Russians, according to Serhiy Kunitsyn, Crimean prime minister for six years: “The only thing that forced the Crimean elite to support Moscow was the presence of 20,000 Russian troops.” http://ukrainianweek.com/Politics/108310

[19] Depending on whether or not groups later merged with others are counted separately, in 2014 there were between 6-8 Ukrainian extreme right parties. Bratsva and Patriots of Ukraine are generally considered FSB sponsored “front organizations” set up to compromise and discredit Ukrainian nationalism in general. As of 2011 there were at least 17 Kremlin sponsored anti Ukrainian Russian fascist and neo Nazi organizations in Ukraine. http://j-mihalych.livejournal.com/456482.html. A list compiled by Sergei Bilokin (Kyiv) in 2014 lists 53 Russian fascist and neo Nazi parties some of which have filial branches in Ukraine. How many of these are funded by the Kremlin is unknown. To this total should be added at least 4 nominally Ukrainian organizations that support the Russian ones: the Communist Party of Ukraine, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Borotba and Liva Sprava.

[20] The Kremlin’s Anti Extremist Law is worded to allow officials to determine what is “extremist” and thus ensure that law is not applied to groups it sponsors secretly or otherwise like Rodina and Nashi. One wonders whether there are two intelligence directorates dealing with extremists. One that represses them and another that sponsors them. On Kremlin sponsorship of Russian neo Nazi groups http://www.academia.edu/4348334/Russia_-_The_Uses_of_Extremism_The_Emergence_of_Three_Far-Right_Discussion_Clubs_and_Their_Links_to_the_Kremlin_Spell_More_Bad_News_for_East-West_Relations; http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1399501345.

[21] See the debate between pro- Ukrainian liberals and anti Ukrainian conservative Mearsheimer in: Foreign Affairs, November-December (2014) and http://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/the-ukraine-crisis-according-to-john-j-mearsheimer-impeccable-logic-wrong-facts_2079.html. No one should be surprised  if Anti Kremlin conservatives (US Neo Cons) like John McCain who deny the Kremlin its sphere of influence, but not Washington its, someday decide the US government should trade Ukraine for Iran and Syria.

 

Source: ucipr.kiev.ua

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  • Rods

    The very left and right both inhabit opposite ends of a political circle. Large numbers of them are also very racist where they don’t see people as individuals, some good, some indifferent and some bad but as groups of people who they label with anything that fits their (often very distorted view of reality) and then use it to promote their particular version of illiberal political control.

    This generalization means that powerful elites and bullying countries have spheres of influence, whereas the people of those bullied sovereign states have no rights to independent thoughts or freedoms or any rights to self-determination. The fact that they can have these views by living in countries that allow these freedoms of thought and expression is a contradiction in its own right.

    We have seen these illiberal extremes in operation in Nazi Germany and Communist and post-Communist Russia, where any disagreement with the ruling clique results in harassment, imprisonment or a murderous death. The villains running these countries cannot stand any dissenting scrutiny that shows them up for the lying, cheating, thieving murderers that they are or submit themselves to genuine elections in the fear that the majority will rightly reject their illiberal repressive regimes.

    There is a good measure of any persons political views and that is how tolerant and committed they are to human rights, freedom of expression, respect for the right to hold opposing views and public scrutiny through free and fair democratic elections. Democracy is always the enemy of the extreme, where they have to express, debate and justify their views, which if they are from the intolerant extremes of the political spectrum, they will rightly be rejected when subjected to such public scrutiny by the majority.

    This is why it is so important to support free and fair democracy, personal freedom and the free right of expression as it is only this that holds ruling elites to account. These checks and balances are understood in mature democracies, but that does not mean that the people don’t have to be forever protective and vigilant to make sure their democracy is not stolen from them.

    The reason left and right fringe parties are growing in Europe is that our democracies are indeed under threat from a corrupt undemocratic institution, called the EU, that was set up after WWII to not be democratic where after Nazi Germany, the people were not to be trusted. In Brussels there are not the checks and balances where only an appointed ruling elite can introduce legislation to be rubber stamped by the EU parliament and this is why the majority of the British people are instinctively anti-EU and want a new looser relationship with Brussels where our own truly democratically elected parliament is the supreme arbiter of the laws that we have to obey.

    The brave, determined and gutsy Ukrainian people have done what the Russian people have failed to do and that is when a political elite have used their democracy to get elected and then pulled a dark-satanic draw-bridge up behind them to form a dictatorship, where they think political power belongs to them and their other like minded corrupt elite. But it doesn’t it belongs to the people and this is what Euro Maiden, like many other people’s revolutions in the past have demonstrated by taking it back from these undemocratic forces. Freedom is anything but free and the heavenly one hundred, their friends and families have sadly found this out at a great personal cost. Ukraine has been lucky where only about 25% of revolutions result in the creation of a freely elected democracy, rather than a new repressive ruling elite. Make sure you keep holding the current government to account, so the pressing and necessary reforms are enacted to make your country a truly just and democratic one.

    An evil dictator next door has decided that Ukrainian democracy is a danger to his own illegal, illiberal, dictatorial rule and this is why Ukrainian democracy is again under attack. The Ukrainian people don’t want an evil dictator like Yanukovych or Putin and they are again paying a terrible price from the murderous invasion and breaking of International law in Crimea and the Donbass.

    By loving, nurturing and maturing your democracy and democratic institutions you will defeat Putin (most dictators eventually fall) and over time a good way of life and standard of living will evolve like it has in other genuine democracies, but be forever vigilant against those who would steal it from you, in whatever form that takes.

    • puttypants

      I agree with everything you’ve said….but women, children, elderly people will start dying of starvation…their men and women continue to be killed in war and who’s there to help them. Even Western Ukraine who has always been more european is becoming doubtful. How long do they hold out? They’ll lose their young people to other countries. Russia can just continue to get asian soldier from central asia forever they have so many young men with out jobs or a future who will fight Ukrainians forever they have nothing to lose their home conditions are so bad. Ukrainian people need jobs badly NOW and no one ios willing to invest as long as there is a war going on or a frozen conflict. Putin has devastated eastern Ukraine and is now cause trouble in Kharkiv, odesa and other fairly stable regions in eastern and southeaster Ukraine. Ukraine needs help….The west can just help the political situation…the people need help directly.

  • Dirk Smith

    Excellent article.

  • canuke

    Brilliantly researched!

  • Brent

    Well worth the read and very well researched.