Readers know I’ve been pretty hard on Ukraine over its “de-Communization” laws for a number of reasons. But to be fair, there’s another country that really needs to eradicate an old regime from its past, if only because it has far more influence on life in that country today than “Communism” has in post-Soviet Ukraine.

As many readers are no doubt already aware, on Thursday a racist lone-wolf terrorist, yes, terrorist, shot and killed nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. As is typically the case when black Americans are shot, the usual suspects are scrambling to find any way they can to blame the victims and shift attention away from motives.

As for the killer, more progressive people have been pushing for him to be labeled as a terrorist, but as we all know that’s not how it will go down in the mainstream. He’ll be called “mentally ill,” a “lone nut,” and so on. Yet Dylann Roof, the shooter, was not “crazy” or a “nut.” He was the logical result our society produces.

Dylann lived in a state where the Confederate flag still flies over the state house. In school, he was most likely taught that the Civil War was about economic factors or states’ rights as opposed to slavery and white supremacy, something he would have known if schools bothered to study primary sources in history class. He was probably never aware as to the tyranny the slave owning class and their supporters subjected the rest of the antebellum nation to, such as violating the first amendment and banning the distribution and publishing of abolitionist literature in Kansas territory- in other words real political correctness. He was probably taught that Abraham Lincoln was a racist who didn’t start the war to free the slaves, ignoring the fact that Lincoln’s views on this topic evolved radically during the war, just like those of many other white Americans in that era. If he heard that argument, he probably never heard someone immediately respond that the original goal of WWII wasn’t to destroy Nazi Germany; unconditional surrender did not become the Allied goal until 1943.

Roof grew up in a country that has monuments to Confederate soldiers and leaders, even in states that never provided any manpower to the Confederacy. In fact, there are monuments to Confederate veterans in states that also never provided any soldiers to the Union, due to the fact that at the time of the war they were neither states nor territories. Roof grew up in a country that celebrated films like Gone With the Wind. He no doubt heard dozens of times about how Reconstruction failed because the Republicans who carried it out were corrupt and selfish, and the black population simply couldn’t handle freedom right away. He must have heard about how the Confederate flag and symbols were about “heritage not hate,” and perhaps himself fumed about “politically correct” people who just couldn’t figure that out.

In school he was probably taught the whitewashed version of American racism. Yes, in the past, America was racist. There was segregation. But then Martin Luther King Jr., who was a Republican, don’cha know, gave a speech about this dream he had. Once white people heard that, they realized racism was bad, unless of course someone wasn’t deliberately trying to be racist, in which case they weren’t racist and the person claiming it was racist is the real racist. Whatever the case, he was taught that the playing field had in fact become level long before he was born, and thus he wasn’t prepared to understand the roots of black poverty in his own time. He was taught that America is a meritocracy, and people who don’t succeed are just lazy.

He was raised by a media that told him that black Americans already got equal rights, and now for years what they’ve really wanted is special rights. He listened to pundits excuse police violence against black Americans and constantly bring up “black on black crime,” never pointing out the basic criminology fact- that most crime is intra-racial, i.e. white on white, black on black, etc. And speaking of crime, he no doubt frequented forums on the internet where people passed around misleading statistics to “prove” black Americans are inherently more criminal, and the schools and media failed to address the glaring problems with these reports. For example, supposedly during the shooting Roof accused blacks of “raping our(i.e. white) women.” He had never been made aware of the fact that most rape victims know their rapists, and that the vast majority of white women are raped by white men. Nobody ever taught him that rape is horrible regardless of the ethnic background of the perpetrator. As large as America’s media machine is, they preferred to skirt the issue of crime statistics rather than dissect and refute the incorrect conclusions many have drawn from them.

Roof was led to believe that the playing field had been level, and thus affirmative action was in fact “reverse racism.” He saw life in “the ghetto” glamorized, lampooned, and pretty much anything but explained as the result of economic policies and well-documented discrimination. He was told “it’s that music, the culture,” without ever learning about the major role of whites in mainstream hip-hop culture, both as producers and more importantly, consumers. He was raised in a society where violence, sex, and drunken escapades in country western music are totally ignored. He was taught to fear and hate people who looked like “gangbangers” in a country where grown white men dress up in full military uniforms and walk around in public armed with assault rifles with spare magazines and the police merely look on calmly.

Roof was taught the as a white, straight male, he was the one who was really oppressed. He could have learned it from TV, talk radio, and the internet. Teachers, parents, and responsible adults did not make sure he had other sources of reliable information to counteract that nonsense. And beyond all that, he lived in a city flying that rebel, traitor flag- a symbol of white supremacy. It’s a symbol that says: “Whatever exploitation you face, however often you fail, at least your white, and that’s the most important thing. Don’t identify with anyone except your fellow whites, no matter what some of them might do to you.” As Lyndon Johnson once said: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Roof was convinced of this one way or another and saw black Americans, liberals, leftists, and other minorities as trying to attack his precious whiteness. He took things to a logical conclusion.

Americans don’t want to admit that. They want him to be “crazy.” They want to pretend racist killers are born or they just “snap,” rather than acknowledge that they are made, molded, and shaped by society. They, and by which I mean more “liberal” people, certainly don’t want to admit their culpability for not properly educating people like Roof, and not wanting to take the issue head on. They preferred to agree to disagree, they were too afraid to be accused of “white guilt” or being “politically correct,” failing to realize that white supremacy is itself a form of political correctness.

Despite the claims of some paranoid nationalists, no Ukrainian today is dying due to Communism, symbolized by statues of Lenin or streets named after other Bolsheviks. By contrast, there are innocent Americans, in fact Americans who throughout their history as a people rallied to the colors again and again, to the fullest extent that they were allowed, in defense of a nation that repeatedly subjected them to unconscionable treatment, are dying here, now, in 2015. It is high time Americans deal decisively with this demon in our past, and strike against the most visible symbol of institutional racism in our country. America, take down the monuments to traitors, rename the streets, and take down that flag.

We can do this the easy way or the hard way.

We can do this the easy way or the hard way.

13 thoughts on “De-Confederatization

  1. Jim Kovpak Post author

    Thanks to a loyal reader, we have Roof’s “manifesto.”

    Surprise, surprise- He’s waving a Confederate flag. He also used the term “racially aware,” which is commonly used by White Nationalists.

    Here is the quote:

    “Black people are racially aware almost from birth, but White people on average dont think about race in their daily lives.”

    Yes, I guess you could say black Americans are “racially aware”- because they HAVE to be to survive in America.

  2. Jim Kovpak Post author

    It’s interesting that I wrote this article and correctly predicted some of his influences without having read his “manifesto” in the link above. It’s just too easy.

  3. Asehpe

    I tend to be a little more lenient on the issue of symbols and their interpretation, mostly for the same reasons why you’ve argued against the historical revisionist / ‘decommunistization’ laws in Ukraine: dialogue, historical truth, the right to one’s opinion, etc. (And even though the existence of the Confederacy can certainly be traced down to the desire to keep slavery, ‘our special institution’, still individual conferedate soldiers and generals could and were often actually good people — I wouldn’t be against having streets named after them, in the same way that I wouldn’t be against having an Erwin Rommel or a Claus von Stauffenberg street somewhere in Germany.

    The good and the bad should be remembered, and especially — in my opinion — how intertwined and entangled they may sometimes be.

    I will add only one more thing: Mr Roof was not the only person to grow up hearing all the pro-Conferederate rhetorics one encounters in South Carolina. Other people did: the ones who saw him and called the police; the public figures (state governor, etc.) who condemned the crime in the sternest, strongest terms; the people, both black and white, who offered their condolences and their emotional support to the victims; the ones who wrote a petition asking that the Confederate flag be removed from the Confederate Soldiers monument; All those South Carolinians also heard similarly biased visions of history. Hell, some of them may actually even believe some of the things they were told. And yet… they did not shoot innocent people in a church, nor did they protect the bastard who did.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      If there’s one Confederate general who is truly worthy of respect, it would be James Longstreet, who saw the error of his ways and put his life on the line for Reconstruction.

      I think it’s a sign of the Lost Cause influence that General Grant is so maligned, and practically ignored as a president. Reading Grant’s memoirs and quotes one sees that he could never even run these days, either as a Republican or Democrat. He’d be branded a radical Communist fringe radical.

      Sherman is also maligned in a similar way.

  4. Strykr9

    Some people are saying this is all to respect the skill and strategy employed by many Confederate generals. That is incredibly stupid as we can appreciate their battlefield tactics without honouring ideology. Almost every military enthusiast recognises the brilliance of Erwin Rommel but no one flies a swatstika to respect his military genius.

      1. Callum Carmichael

        I was gonna say, the American civil war should be known for a lot of things, but competent military leadership was not one of them. Some officers started to “get it” towards the end of the war, but other than that the results were just what you would expect from two armies full of brand-new soldiers and inexperience officers who had learned a bunch of useless bullshit from de Jomini, if they had any education in military leadership at all.

  5. markiandobczansky

    Agree with everything you said about the U.S., race, the Confederacy, and the mythology of the lost cause (and am glad to see the blog is back). But wait, Ukrainians are not dying today? Which flags, symbols, and heroic mythological forbearers are being used by the DNR/LNR to rally people against the Ukrainian government exactly? It’s precisely Russian and Soviet historical symbols–symbols of another great lost cause. The Russian supremacists aren’t racist against Ukrainians, in the sense of a hatred based on purported racial distinctions, but they certainly hate symbols of Ukrainian statehood and culture. They also don’t mind a little public humiliation of “conscious Ukrainian” civilians or a bit of torture/POW parades of Ukrainian soldiers to terrorize the population into submission (as lynching was meant to terrorize the African American population). Subduing Ukraine took a tremendous amount of violence and coercion on the part of the Soviet government over the decades and today a tremendous amount of violence is being visited on the populations of Donetsk and Luhansk in order to influence the political choices of the Ukrainian government. Yes, the Soviet government is dead and gone, but it has only been gone for a mere 24 years. The Confederacy has been gone for 150 years and it still has a baleful influence on the U.S. Why should the Confederate flag be taken down, yet Ukrainians still be forced to live on Vulytsia Chekistiv?

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      This is an inaccurate comparison, mainly because Ukrainians were directly complicit in the construction of the Russian empire and even more so in the Soviet Union. There were plenty of Ukrainian NKVD officials and Chekists, but of course this clashes with the victimhood fantasy that drives a lot of Ukrainian politics.

      Moreover the DNR/LNR isn’t an extension of the USSR, it’s largely steeped in resurgent Russian imperialism.

      So no, Ukrainians can’t be compared to black Americans’ experience. And as for getting rid of those symbols, it would be a lot harder than it looks. Sure, it’s easy to rename a street named after a Soviet leader- but what about the Russian language? The very prominence of the Russian language in Ukraine is a a side effect of policies which go back to the 19th century. Do we make people stop speaking the language?

      Also if we want to get rid of the Soviet legacy for good, we could return Galicia to Poland, and just give Russia their “Novorossiya” and the Crimea. After all, these lands were the legacy of Lenin and Stalin.

      1. markiandobczansky

        “Ukrainians were complicit.” What exactly does that mean? No Ukrainian resentment of Soviet policies is valid because many of them climbed the career ladder in the Soviet power ministries? That’s like saying institutionalized racism is not a problem because the U.S. has black policemen and marines. Also, where are you drawing the line on complicity? Ukrainian peasants contributed food to the collective farms–they are therefore complicit? Ukrainian soldiers were part of the Red Army therefore they are complicit? Ukrainian workers produced tanks, tractors, and airplanes, therefore they are complicit? No doubt, Ukrainians visited a good deal of suffering on others as part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union (anti-Semitism within the Ukrainian party and in Ukrainian villages is a particularly repugnant stain on the historical record). But let’s not make a smart historical insight about the participation of Ukrainians in the Soviet system into the absence of their violent coercion by the state.

        Second, the USSR and Russian imperialism are absolutely not diametrically opposed to one another. The USSR was a successor to the Russian Empire in many ways and the adoption of Russian geopolitical ambitions as well as Russocentric cultural policies are two good examples of that. You think the Soviet regime didn’t play footsie with outright Russian nationalists in order to further their control of the population? Read Yitzhak Brudny’s book Reinventing Russia: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953–1991. Or read David Brandenberger’s National Bolshevism. Somehow the DNR/LNR are interested in resurrecting the Russian Empire, but ignore the Soviet legacy? I don’t buy it.

        Your last two points are red herrings to which I can only say: 1) It’s hard to take down the Confederate flag, too–lots of people will get butthurt. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. 2) Very few outside the nationalist fringe argue that Russian should disappear in Ukraine. It’s perfectly possible to acknowledge the Russian language being a legacy of imperialism and maintain some pragmatic understanding of its importance in Ukrainian society in all spheres of life. The Russian language can also be a language of Ukrainian patriotism (as it has been throughout history). 3) Crimea was Khrushchev’s “gift” to Ukraine, not Lenin’s or Stalin’s. And you know perfectly well that this is not on anyone’s agenda.

        One last point. Obviously, the suffering of Ukrainians pales in comparison to that of African Americans under slavery (and segregation, the terrorism of the KKK, Jim Crow, and persistent economic and social inequalities). Compared to the plight of Ukrainians in the USSR, chattel slavery stands alone in its inhumanity, brutality, scale, and pervasive racial justifications. But the point is not about who suffered more. The point is that historical symbols of oppression sometimes become inappropriate in new contexts. I’m bummed that you can see all the continuities between slavery/the Confederacy and today’s racism, but don’t see the connection between the Soviet legacy and what’s going on in the Donbas.

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I should also point out that this concern over historical legacy and victimization never goes both ways with these people. Oh sure, they shudder at the idea of a street named after Lenin, but it’s fine for them to hang up OUN flags or even put memorial markers to the OUN in places like Babi Yar (yes, they did this and I’ve seen it).

        Ridding Ukraine of “totalitarian symbols?” Not all of them, apparently.

  6. Jim Kovpak Post author

    Again you’re comparing apples and oranges. Yes, in modern times there are black cops and marines, but what conscious role did black Americans play in the creation of chattel slavery and the white supremacist system? None. This is not the case for Ukrainians and the Soviet Union. Believe it or not, but Ukrainians, at least in the past, were capable of having different political beliefs, and some of them thought that the Soviet Union and socialism would be a good idea. The conscious, deliberate role millions of people played helped construct and defend the USSR. Then, for the reasons you allude to(the reassertion of Great Russian chauvinism and the imperial mentality) , it became increasingly clear that it no longer had anything to offer Ukrainians(or other minorities for that matter). Hence the rightness of independence.

    All I’m doing is applying a more dialectical, realistic perspective as opposed to the typical Ukrainian victimhood fantasy, whereby socialism was something imported from outside and imposed by Russians. This is very important for another reason, namely if Russia is to have any chance at becoming a normal nation in the future. After all, if they try to get rid of their Soviet legacy(as they made a half-ass attempt at in the 90’s,), where does that leave them? With the Russian empire of course. And people wonder why these ideas are so resurgent.

    “Your last two points are red herrings to which I can only say: 1) It’s hard to take down the Confederate flag, too–lots of people will get butthurt. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.”

    Did I argue that people should put Soviet flags everywhere? No. So much for red herrings. In any case, however, the two flags don’t represent the same thing. The Confederate flag represents racism and slavery. The Soviet flag represents a left wing movement whose ideals were equality, democracy, etc. Of course these things were largely not achieved in the 20th century- but you could say the same for early liberalism. Shall we get rid of representative government simply because it didn’t fulfill its promises, or shall we say that parliamentary democracy is a terrible idea simply because the British empire killed tens of millions throughout the 18th and 19th century? Of course not. That would be absurd.

    The limus test is as follows- Imagine that the Confederacy and the USSR both get carte blanche to apply their theories as they see fit, with no resistance. What would a United States run by victorious Confederates look like, vs. a Soviet Union that was given the opportunity to apply its highest ideals without fighting for its very survival for the first years of its existence? I know which hypothetical state I’d prefer to live in.

    ” 2) Very few outside the nationalist fringe argue that Russian should disappear in Ukraine. It’s perfectly possible to acknowledge the Russian language being a legacy of imperialism and maintain some pragmatic understanding of its importance in Ukrainian society in all spheres of life. The Russian language can also be a language of Ukrainian patriotism (as it has been throughout history).”

    Again, the prominence of the language is part of the legacy of colonialism. Russian-speakers dominated the cities for just that reason. Better eliminate the language, because…magic voodoo politics, of course.

    ” 3) Crimea was Khrushchev’s “gift” to Ukraine, not Lenin’s or Stalin’s. And you know perfectly well that this is not on anyone’s agenda.”

    I don’t like calling any of these territories “gifts”, if only because that supports the Russian narrative that modern Ukraine was some “gift” handed down by the generous Muscovite Russians as opposed to something that Ukrainians built, fought, and died for. That being said, it was the territories of “Novorossiya” and Galicia which were added by Lenin and Stalin.

    And that latter- Galicia! What a horrible memory- the legacy of Stalin, right there in Ukraine! Obviously the just thing to do would be to give this back to Poland, a country which has done far better than Ukraine since 1991 and which has a far more mature attitude as a nationality.

    And yes, Khruschev did transfer the Crimea to Ukraine, but is that not the illegitimate action of an illegal occupation regime? Do you not support those Russians who want to break with the Soviet past, and rediscover that “pre-revolutionary Russia, which they lost?”

    Oh, wait, of course not. Everybody wants to have their fucking cake and eat it too.

    Short version- Your comparison is wholly inaccurate. I have no opinion on what should be done with Lenin statues or Soviet flags- I’m actually offended, enraged in fact, at Russian nationalists and DNR/LNR supporters who appropriate those symbols.

    What I do know is that Ukraine is in a very dire situation right now, and these de-Communization laws are nothing but voodoo politics and an attempt to impose a national mythology on the people, very similar to the way the USSR imposed its particular historical narratives. This will not save Ukraine, which cannot afford to live a fantasy.


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