Anti-Imperialist Alert!

Recently I just read the most chilling story. Apparently the Kyiv government of Ukraine, no doubt under the direction of the US and EU, is claiming oil and gas fields in the Black Sea region. No doubt Western, probably American companies, will quickly move in to snatch up contracts.  Typical oil grab, once again!

Oh…Wait…Hang on a second, let’s check that article one more time.  Ah yes, it seems that Russia, not the US, is claiming those Black Sea oil and gas fields, via its proxy in the Crimea. What a relief! Brave anti-imperialist internet warriors can disregard and stand down.

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5 thoughts on “Anti-Imperialist Alert!

  1. braindead anon

    I understand your disgust with those who turn anti-american imperialism into knee-jerk support for anything against America no matter how reactionary. On the other hand, the issue of choosing one’s priorities and entering into alliances, on the world-scale is unavoidable.

    To take the example you chose in your article on alliance politics, fascist Japan’s pseudo anti-colonialism would (and did) appeal to those who opposed European colonialism dogmatically. However, you left out the fact that the decision to oppose fascist Japan because the struggle against the fascist bloc in WWII was prioritized over fighting the Anglo-American/French Imperialists. So it wasn’t really a case of the “a pox on both your houses” line that is so popular amongst anarchists, social-democrats, and trotskyists. Lenin, Mao, and Stalin all entered into temporary alliances with imperialists when they believed it could advance the class struggle. And say what you will about such dirty deals, but they had concrete results, whereas rhetorical anti-imperialism which refuses to enter into alliances has had few results.

    On the eve of WWII, Stalin didn’t lash out at the Anglo-French Imperialists, actually he offered them incentives such as a mutual security pact directed against Germany. He offered to help them contain Hitler. They didn’t accept. Then he invaded Finland which was where he believed an allied-Nazi invasion would establish a beach-head against the USSR. So he took an “Imperialist” action to keep England, France, and Germany from coming to a détente in the form of an anti-communist invasion of the USSR. By closing a potential imperialist beachhead he cut short the possibility of a quick and easy victory over the USSR, and bought time for inter-imperialist tensions to boil over and for the phony war to go hot. Then he cut a deal with Hitler to bide time and to send a message to the West, which was still hesitant about taking serious action against Hitler, that he was serious about defending his country. As you’ve pointed out before on this blog, contrary to liberal fantasies about a “totalitarian” impulse making fascism and communism “fast friends”, a long term German-USSR alliance would’ve been impossible because of ideological and geopolitical reasons. Both parties knew the non-aggression pact was temporary and would be broken. In fact, Japan planned to break it’s non-aggression pact with the soviets once the Nazis had prevailed, only for the soviets to turn around break it and then blow through Manchuria like a paper-bag.

    I guess the point is, could Stalin have saved his country and by extension the world without entering into such dirty deals? Even Mao and Ho were in alliance with American Imperialism so I guess they don’t come out so clean either.

    I guess my question is, how high do you prioritize Russian Imperialism? It’s one thing to be against it, but isn’t it another to demand NATO intervention in Syria and ask that the Russian people protest arms shipments for Assad, as some “cruise missile socialists” have done? I admit many “brave anti-imperialist internet warriors” are weak ideologically and sometimes do little more than throw soft-ball pitches for Russian imperialism, but do they not at least grasp (unlike the cruise missile socialists) that US Imperialism today is the main enemy of the world?

    Granted, it’s still a contest between two dim light bulbs. Russia’s land grab in Odessa is a serious obstacle for the Ukrainian anti-junta movement, but in my view it is not less than the fact the EU and US has given substantial support to the junta. Ukraine will have a much easier time getting back its lost territories when a New Democracy comes to power there. The best way to undercut Russian Imperialism’s feeble attempt to portray its annexation as part of a populist struggle for global democracy is for a progressive ukrainian government to come to power. Who would even watch RT other than disgruntled right-wingers, if such a thing were to happen?

    To my knowledge Luhansk hasn’t asked to be annexed by Russia but I could be wrong. Putin doesn’t have the political capital to spin such an annexation, nor the economic capital to sustain one. Nor does it seem clear that everyone inside the “peoples republics” are simply looking to become yes-men of Russian Imperialism. Is it appropriate to say that the pro-Russian opposition are simply fascists on the other side? There seems to be a national liberation issue at stake. I do not blame those in the “peoples republics” so much for exercising the option of leaving rapidly deteriorating Ukraine. Even Yanukovych can smell which way the wind is blowing and is openly saying that the junta can only bring more partition, political fragmentation, repression, and civil war. None of this is ideal as it seems the opposition is not communist led and many mistakes have been committed already. I believe the Ukrainian people will learn. As you have more experience with the Eastern European proletariat than me maybe you can provide more insight into the current situation. How it seems from the belly of the beast is that unless they give up illusions about joining the rest of the “white race” in the first world and join up with the rest of third world, they will be unable to get past violently vacillating between a dangerous cocktail of liberalism, reactionary nationalism, and revisionist nostalgia.

    Reply
    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      Well that’s a lot but to get straight to your question about priority on Russian imperialism, for me it is quite low. I don’t see this as a lasting thing and I actually see it as particularly bad for Russia because it doesn’t have the kind of clout and economic base that the US still has. However long this lasts, it’s not going to reach very far. There are some chicken littles in the Western press talking about Moldova or the Baltic states being threatened but this is really nonsense. Putin’s not an idiot and he’s not going to get into a war with NATO. That’s also why he’s not going to attempt to go for Kyiv either. Also I don’t think that the EU or the US will have any positive influence on this at all. They fucked up enough already.

      That being said, my biggest problem with Russia’s actions is that they are now the ones fucking things up. I was deeply concerned about what happened in Kyiv and I could see that this was clearly worse than the Orange Revolution, but I feel that the people of Ukraine, with the right guidance, would eventually see the incompetence and idiocy of the new triumvirate and kick them out. One of the nationalists’ safety nets is the fact that they have always had someone they could blame for their failures. Had Russia stayed out of this entirely, the clowns of Kyiv would have nobody to blame. Almost immediately they offered gubernatorial positions to some oligarchs, right after they claimed that their struggle was against corrupt oligarchs. I’ve seen how some Maidan supporters reacted to this, asking what they fought for. But what saved the ass of the Maidan leaders was Russian intervention, a wonderful distraction they could seize upon.

      As for those historical alliances, we must remember that we’re talking about socialist states occasionally making deals with non-socialist states, whereas here we have an extremely reactionary state which has no intention of letting socialists come to power in Eastern Ukraine.

      Reply
      1. braindead anon

        I definitely see what you mean that the whole thing is bad for the Russian proletariat as it teaches them to associate their national interests with that of Putin’s regime. Combine that with traditional great white russian chauvinism and as you’ve pointed out before, the potential for a very nasty and reactionary outcome exists. How it seems from here, and maybe I’m reading this wrong, is that this incident has awaked the Russian masses from a sense of lethargy, and now the task of progressive forces is not to opportunistically tail this phenomenon, but to take the creative energy of the Russian people and apply it to progressive ends. You’ve voiced concern in other articles, that the memory of the anti-fascist war and the chauvinism and threats of the Kyiv junta is bringing gristle to the mill of the Russian fascists. There is truth in this. There is even truth in the Huey Long quote (which seems erroneously adapted and attributed to Churchill) that: “… we’ll have fascism here, but it will come as an anti-fascism movement,” or a more telling and provocative quote on the part of Ignatio Silone that: “The final conflict will be between the Communists and the ex-Communists,”. If it was impossible for fascism to masquerade as anti-fascism then Israeli fascism and American imperialism would already have gone extinct. But fascism, no matter what veil it chooses for itself cannot unite and tap the potential and creativity of the peoples of the Russian Federation. The true communists and other progressive people of Russia have a powerful weapon, they have the power to unite the Russian masses; fascism, no matter its guise can only bring division in Russia.

        The revival of Russian imperialism is a doomed project and it can only bring misery. If the Russian proletariat and comprador elements of oppressed nations in Russia choose to ride Putin’s coat-tails then I think they can only expect ruin. If they have bought into that path, then it maybe necessary for Russian imperialism to (again) go through overreach and implosion before they return to revolution. I hope that is not the case, because from my far removed vantage point it seems that the objective conditions for revolution is far better than it was in Weimar; the proletariat is stronger and more numerous and the imperialist state and economy is in far deeper crisis and decay then it was in Germany.

        If the referendums and the violence prove anything at all, its that a significant portion of the population of Ukraine does not want the junta. So the US-EU imperialists have to ask if they want to keep supporting further bloodshed and a civil war right in the middle of Europe. If the US-EU imperialists really want to oppose Putin’s land grab then they have to recognize the unpopularity of the new government and oppose its repressions. I really don’t see the American Imperialists ever doing this. Though certain sections of German imperialism, based more in German industrial capital, has put out feelers for a détente with Putin against the wishes of Merkel and America (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/11/us-ukraine-crisis-germany-schroeder-idUSBREA4A04G20140511). Remarkably Schroeder highlighted German moral responsibility to Russia as part of the former USSR; I suspect this may have to do more with what Russia could offer as a potential high-way from the far east than it does with any alleged economic vitality of Putin’s Rusisa.

        Putin’s actions have held the resistance back without question. But is it right to mirror the talking points of the regime when activists are being killed and our comrades don’t have the right to free assembly or speech? I’m definitely not accusing you of lining up with the regime, you’ve offered some very effective criticism of it and I show your pieces to friends who still support maiden who I believe can be won over. Imagine we’ve been transported back to the Gulf War which is a more effective approach to opposing the war: “No Blood for Oil! By the way, here are the top ten reasons that Saddam Hussein is a shit-lord.” or to tell people: “Saddam is a progressive nationalist who started out as a flunky of imperialism; American imperialism only opposes him now because they have lost control of him”. The first approach is what most opponents of the war tried and 1.5-3 million iraqi corpses later, here we are. The second was something the average joe needed to hear, the first approach only legitimated the claims of the warmongers. The second in my view is also actually closer to the truth than the orientalist view of Hussein.

        I guess I’m saying I will add my voice to the chorus of anti-annexationists when comrades in Ukraine are free to do so. I see no reason to oppose them if they take advantage of contradictions say between the Germans and the Americans or between the Russians and Americans. You’ve said you thought some of the pro-russians have fascist views the exact mirror of Svodoba, what is the chance in your view of say Luhansk or Donetsk actually becoming fascist? And would the ostensible rebellion against fascism which justified the movement for autonomy aid the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist movement there?

  2. Big Bill Haywood Post author

    First I would say that what you see in terms of popular support for the regime in Russia is not so much of an awakening. It has always been easy to hold pro-government views and rallies in Russia.Even the “opposition” parties like KPRF or LDPR routinely hold their marches. If you want to have a protest against NATO or something like that, it’s no problem. If you are actually in opposition to something the government is doing, then it’s still possible but much harder. What happened in 2011-12 was a real political awakening, but that movement discredited itself and failed to come up with coherent, realistic ideas. In the end it played right into Putin’s hands and with his populist offensive in 2013 plus what’s going on now, the opposition has pretty much been cowed. Some of the remaining voices have slandered themselves by engaging in alliance politics and defending Euromaidan, stupidly assuming that if the regime is against it, it must be good and all the talk of fascists must be propaganda. I am also convinced that many former oppositions have basically rallied behind the government because at the moment it pretends to support their interests as Russians. In reality, it is nothing of the sort.

    As for talking points coinciding, this works both ways. I realize that many times my talking points may coincide with those of the Kremlin regime. Sometimes this it is different because I have different motives, but other times it is the same because sometimes they tell the truth. In fact I’d say the Kremlin has been a better busted clock than the new Ukrainian government, which is pretty much predicated on lies of all sorts. That being said, I don’t necessarily believe that the coincidence of a talking point is the same as supporting a particular side, nor does it automatically mean one is helping the propaganda of that side. I’m not going to silence my own criticism of the Donetsk Republic or Russia in the naive hope that this will somehow stop European or American imperialism. In fact, in many ways, the failures and blunders of various regimes makes them even more vulnerable to Western imperialism. Suppose for a moment that Russia became a liberal democratic republic with competing political parties. Rusia has all the potential to be another Germany, Sweden, or even Norway in terms of living standards, though to be fair this would take some time. But assuming Russia put itself on that track it would be very hard for Western NGOs to form effective propaganda in Russia. They couldn’t complain about lack of (bourgeois)democracy if the people had it, they couldn’t complain about censorship if the government didn’t resort to it so much, and they couldn’t complain about rule of law if rule of law actually existed. People would have more faith in their government and probably more pride in their country, as self-hatred has been a major problem here.

    If Western journalists talk about an authoritarian, right-wing regime in Russia, I’m not going to pretend this doesn’t exist for fear that someone might take my criticism to be supporting the West or Western imperialism. For this same reason I’m not going to ignore the right-wing elements surrounding Maidan so as to focus on that part of the movement which had legitimate aims and demands. Likewise, while I support the unification of all Ukraine, I will not make common cause with any elements which agree with or approve of the ideology of Svoboda or Ukrainian nationalism in general, that is the mythology of 1917(the Ukrainian and Western Ukrainian People’s Republics, Petliura, Bandera, etc). That movement lost, every time. It has never brought Ukraine anything but misery and today’s events confirm this. I’m willing to support a liberal or even EU-member Ukraine, but I will never compromise with those who want to spin fairy tales about the “heroics” of Bandera and the UPA, or who use the “Holodomor” as a reason why the majority of people should live enthralled to capital. That is where I draw a line which cannot be crossed.

    Taking a resolute anti-fascist position against both factions of right-wingers does not imperil our comrades because they are not closely allied with any of those elements and in fact they seem to be splitting from them. Remember it was Communists and Borotba members who died in Odessa, not Cossack thugs like those behind the DNR. I might also add that Borotba, taking great risks, publicly condemned the DNR’s recent decision to declare Orthodoxy under the Moscow Patriarchate as its “official religion.” Borotba is clearly not short on principle, but I fear they are short on resources and deserve support.

    In any case, this Donetsk Republic obviously isn’t going to last long.

    Reply
    1. braindead anon

      Fair enough. You know Russia much better than I possibly can from where I’m at. As far as the possibility of turning Russia into a first world bourgeois democracy, its possible, but is it really desirable for the oppressed people of the world? It maybe desirable for oppressed Russians, but how would it aid the liberation struggle in say, naxalite India, East Papua, DRC, etc.? The unspoken promise of Eastern European liberal rhetoric seems to be: “let’s help the Westerners bomb the subhumans, and we will magically be rewarded with a first world standard of living” this maybe a gross simplification, but it gets more to the material point of what it seems Russian liberals really see. I certainly wouldn’t advise Russians to therefore ignore democratic rights and rally around the Putin regime, but there should be some honest self-criticism on the Russian side, that the admiration of all things western ignores that the West was built by centuries of exploitation/genocide and that the USSR tried the same path of domination before under Kruschev and Brezhnev–it didn’t work out so well. Granted Kruschev was a dictator, but at the time liberals looked at his “reforms” as moving the USSR down the path to allegedly greater respect for human rights, free-trade, and democracy. Similar to how neo-liberals today still worship Deng Xaoping. You can give the liberals what they want and thereby undermine their basis for criticism, but the result will probably be either reactionary or a failure. Objectively Russia could easily build a strong, genuine communist party that would rival the KPD at it’s height, its simply a matter of correct line. It would be difficult for NGOs and liberals to oppose and repress a genuine communist party and then criticize Putin’s Russia on the same grounds. That would just send out a message of free speech, yes, but only for liberals. Chinese Maoists and Chinese liberal dissidents sometimes come together on issues regarding the repression of democratic rights, do Russian liberals ever criticize Putin’s government for repressing genuine leftists? It does not seem like it from my far removed vantage point.

      As regards Ukraine, I believe the people will prevail regardless of American and Russian imperialism. I admit it was one-sided of me to ever believe Russian imperialism was bringing anything to the table other than publicizing the reality of fascism in kyiv internationally. It seems Borotba regards the junta as the main danger and principle contradiction in Kyiv: “And now I feel much sympathy for those people who are up in arms to protect civilians from the neo-Nazi terror, from the private armies and mercenaries of the oligarchy and international military companies. So what if twenty years of this life under the Ukrainian authorities has taught some of them undeserved love for Putin? Let them be. The Kiev junta is the absolute evil and main threat to all democratically minded citizens of our country. Its fascist methods and oligarchic nature — expressed in the union of far-right militants, billionaires and neoliberal officials – is obvious to all who are willing to speak honestly and drop their illusions about the Maidan, of which we have repeatedly warned Ukrainians.” (http://borotba.org/categorical_imperative_for_anti-fascists.html). Maybe they feel that the attitudes of pro-russians outside Donetsk can be changed or at the least used productively for the moment. Borotba also seems to believe that the anti-maiden struggle is developing anti-capitalist tendencies and that there is a chance for socialism there (http://borotba.org/socialist_chance_for_south-east_ukraine._by_victor_shapinov-_union_borotba_struggle.html). I hope they will prevail.

      I admit I don’t speak Russian so I have not heard about the influence of cossack thugs you speak of. In the American media “pro-Russian” simply means ‘people the Ukrainian government is currently killing’. Are there any resources you would point me to?

      Reply

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