Tag Archives: Yanukovych

A Very Special Message

So I was happy to see the blog is once again getting a lot of engagement, seemingly due mostly to one of my recent posts, The Foreigner’s Guide to Appropriate Protests. I was a bit less amused to find that some of this attention is due to it being shared on several conservative and liberal subreddits. So while I made a decision to make this a humorous/satirical site a while back, forgive me for getting a bit serious for a moment.

If you’re one of those centrist liberals or conservatives who enjoyed the piece, here’s a special message for you: Fuck you, you hypocrite.

Yes, Western, particularly American leftists are ignorant about the situation in the rest of the world and arrogantly lecture people on how to behave in their own countries, but people like you not only do the same thing with protest movements abroad, but you even do it to your own people. You ignore the cause of a mass protest to focus on a window getting smashed or an upended trashcan. You whine about the lack of “civility.” Conservatives in particular are extremely fond of deliberately misinterpreting the message of a protest movement so that they can knock down a strawman, e.g. “All lives matter.”

And for the leftists whose nerves were struck by that satirical work- tough shit. You make fun of conservatives for not knowing the difference between Shiites and Sunni (though you probably couldn’t say what that is if asked right now), or for not knowing that Iranians aren’t Arab, but the truth is that so many years after 9/11 and Iraq, you’re not really that much more informed. What you’ve got is a serious case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome about the outside world, which is what happens when your frame of reference for how informed you are is comparing yourself to the dumbest people in the country. Think I’m being unfair? I just spent about half of my Twitter day slowly explaining to a bunch of self-proclaimed leftists that no, the Taliban wasn’t created or set up by the CIA, that it in fact didn’t exist as a fighting force until 1994, well after the US had all but abandoned Afghanistan, and no, they didn’t fund Bin Laden and he and his Arab volunteers actually weren’t a significant force in the mujahideen. Yes, I’ve been reading a lot of books on Afghanistan in recent years, but a lot of this stuff isn’t too hard to find. For example, you can learn about the role of Afghan Maoists in the Afghan-Soviet War from Wikipedia, of all places.

These days much of my timeline is filled with Syrians, Venezuelans, and Afghans all making a futile effort to get Western, mostly American leftists to actually listen to them and acknowledge that they might actually know a little more about their own countries’ history than people who may not even have a passport. Indeed, they may even know more than Oliver Stone or…gasp! St. Chomsky! The really infuriating thing about this is how all that intersectionality and respecting “lived experience” flies right out the window when it comes to a foreigner voicing an “incorrect” opinion. Look, being from a country doesn’t automatically make someone right, but at the very least, it demands you act a little less arrogant, and maybe listen more than you talk. Ask some follow up questions for a change. Again, it’s amazing that people who will call out someone for “mansplaining” will happily lecture a Syrian or Afghan on the politics of their own country, to which they’ve never been, whose language they cannot speak, based on shit they heard on RT or Democracy Now! 

You want to know the secret as to why I’ve never been a Chavez/Maduro backer despite being a socialist and at one time a self-identified Marxist-Leninist? It’s not just because Chavista Venezuela was never even remotely socialist. Part of it has to do with Venezuelans I’ve met over the years (oh I’m sure they were secretly millionaires in disguise though, right?) of course. But one of the biggest reasons was simply living in another authoritarian state where the leadership blames all its failures on shadowy Western conspiracies. That, and I’ve had friends who either lived under similar regimes. What you learn from this experience is that virtually all these regimes operate the same way. They all have a ruling class that siphons off money, usually form the export of natural resources, into the offshore accounts of the leader and his cronies. When times are good and commodity prices are high, some of that does manage to trickle down in the form of social safety nets. But when times get rough and it comes down to social programs for the masses or more luxury villas for the ruling class, the latter wins every time. And if the US and its allies criticize this or better yet, levy targeted sanctions- so much the better.

All of these regimes use similar tactics. Harassment of dissidents with plausible deniability. Consolidation and control over the media. Pro-regime rallies consisting of paid pensioners, public school and university students, and state workers. Constant promotion of bullshit conspiracy theories. Most of all, there’s always some kind of narrative about how the regime is coming under pressure because it has some great worldview that is opposed to the greedy Yankee hegemony. In Venezuela it was “21st century socialism.” In Syria it’s Baathism. In Russia it was “sovereign democracy.” In virtually every case, we’re told that this is an expression of the country’s sovereignty and self-determination, and the only reason why the US or the West criticizes it is because this country is going its own way and now kowtowing to the imperialist hegemony. The problem is, that in most cases the vast majority of people in those nations were never asked if they wanted to live under a corrupt and authoritarian regime that steals their country’s national wealth in exchange for supposedly “standing up to the West.” Believe it or not, but most of these people want things like food, shelter, and the opportunity to better their lives without having to have personal connections to the right family, bureaucrat, military officer, etc.

Do these experiences of mine make me an expert on Venezuela? Hell no. But living so long under Putin, plus the experiences related to me by people who lived under other dictatorial regimes has given me an ability to understand and filter information a little bit better because I’ve personally witnessed things that are near-identical to what these people are describing. Could I be wrong? Perhaps. Maybe these near identical things are just a coincidence, i.e. Maduro’s a genuine leftist who really is under siege by the US and this is responsible for his situation as opposed to his own mismanagement, while Putin is totally lying when he says similar things. But you know what? Occam’s Razor says we live in a capitalist world where states are run by ruling classes, not their working people, and it also says that if some country has some great popular ideology, it would probably be a lot more successful and the masses would support it. It’s a rule of thumb, but a pretty useful one.

The basis of a moral society, a socialist society, must in large part be empathy. It must be the concept that other people, in your community or thousands of miles away, have many of the same desires you have. If you have the desire for a better life and the will to resist oppression, you must recognize that other people also have a right to these things, regardless of their government’s relationship with the US. If not, you’re essentially dismissing those people as inferior, something less than human.

A while back, I encountered a rather burnt-out individual who turned on the left due to encountering so many leftists who refused to listen to anything Syrians had to say about their country, instead dismissing them as dupes of the CIA and Islamophobic caricatures of “jihadist headchoppers.” According to this individual, Western leftists are racists who “want these problematic people to die,” people referring not just to Syrians but also Afghans, Ukrainians, Nicaraguans, and other nationalities whose right to resist is denied by the privileged Western left.

I decided that person is far too burnt out and angry to have any use in politics, but after seeing how some icons of the American left write about Afghans and now Venezuelans, it almost makes me wonder if on some subconscious level maybe these people do want all those masses whose reality contradicts their personal narrative to die. Not so much to be killed, but to simply disappear, to be erased. If all these people would simply be silenced one way or another, the Western leftist would never have to struggle with the failings of their simplistic worldview. It’s so easy to dismiss someone’s lived experience, contemporary or historical, if you can just write them off as a kulak, a bourgeoisie, a jihadist, a dupe of the CIA. Then you don’t have to feel bad about your fetish for Soviet aesthetics or your admiration for a regime in a country you’ve never visited.

I realize this is a hard pill for a lot of the Western left to swallow, but look at it this way. You’ve been doing things more or less the same way for a long time now. Where are your results? What genuine US imperialism have you genuinely prevented? Who is in power in your country and what policies are they promoting? For nearly all my life, you’ve had a parade of neoliberals and fascists. You’re at a point now where voting for neoliberals has often becoming your only way to keep literal fascists out of power. Hell, the fascists in America are some of the dumbest people on the planet and yet they’re still running circles around you. So with that track record of solid failure after failure, maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start reevaluating your movement and your ideology to see if there aren’t any flaws in there that might actually be benefiting the far-right and hampering your own success.

Or you can dismiss me as an “ultra-leftist” or “Ukrainian fascist” (because associating ethnic groups with political ideologies is fine for some countries!), and we can watch this all play out. Me, I’ve already seen this show. All those things you think can’t happen here; I see them happening. So if you don’t know what life is like under people like Yanukovych, Putin, Maduro, or perhaps worst of all, Assad, keep on doing what you’re doing, and one day you’ll get a taste of it right here.

 

Useful Idiot of 2014: Oliver Stone

It has been a long, difficult year. I had considered creating some kind of year-in-review post for today, but that would require going back over dozens of bad memories. How fortunate it is that in absence of any planning for some sort of competition, a last-minute candidate for Useful Idiot of the Year has appeared just in the nick of time! Running unopposed in the first ever competition of its kind, “filmmaker” Oliver Stone handily scores this year’s title!

Stone, of course, has a history of pseudo-left politics. I say “pseudo” because its more like leftish populism than anything concretely revolutionary. Just change the narrative a bit here or there and you’ve pretty much got the same ideology that is espoused by far-rightists everywhere, including those of Ukraine and Russia. Stone is also a perfect example of the failure of “anti-hegemony” politics, the idea that there’s this monolithic “West” led by the US, and Russia, China, and a few other states somehow constitute a “resistance” to the Western capitalist hegemony.

In a recent Facebook post, Stone revealed that he had interviewed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The whole thing is par for the course. Maidan was a CIA coup, the CIA was behind the snipers shooting protesters, and so on. Let’s take a look.
Interviewed Viktor Yanukovych 4 hours in Moscow for new English language documentary produced by Ukrainians. He was the legitimate President of Ukraine until he suddenly wasn’t on February 22 of this year. Details to follow in the documentary, but it seems clear that the so-called ‘shooters’ who killed 14 police men, wounded some 85, and killed 45 protesting civilians, were outside third party agitators. Many witnesses, including Yanukovych and police officials, believe these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions– with CIA fingerprints on it.

Ah yes, what more objective source could you find than Viktor Yanukovych? Indeed, Yanukovych was the legitimate president, until he suddenly left on 22 February and then was legitimately stripped of his power by the parliament that was left behind. Indeed you could have questioned the legitimacy of the interim government on certain grounds, that is until they had elections in May and especially after they had parliamentary elections in October.

There is nothing to suggest that the shootings which occurred were the work of “outside agitators.” He cites “many witnesses,” but only names one man who wasn’t in a position to know unless he specifically ordered the police to use live rounds. Stone doesn’t give us any evidence, just innuendo. I find it ridiculous how people who have no problem accepting the fact that American police, in such a litigious society, routinely shoot young, unarmed black males, and yet the same people think that Eastern European paramilitaries would never open fire on massive protests which had been increasingly violent for some time.

The only “evidence” Stone offers is comparisons to actual, historical coups.

Create enough chaos, as the CIA did in Iran ‘53, Chile ‘73, and countless other coups, and the legitimate Government can be toppled. It’s America’s soft power technique called ‘Regime Change 101.’

Stone forgets that these were things which happened during the Cold War, when the US actually had a real opponent and much of Europe was for some of that time, a collection of puppet states. That simply isn’t true these days, when Germany leads a bloc of its own and China is a major rival to the US. Furthermore, Iran and Chile didn’t involve various NGOs or civil society initiatives. Both involved direct CIA involvement in connection with members of the military. Lastly, Mossadegh in Iran and to a greater extent Salvador Allende in Chile were both too far to the left for the US. Mossadegh famously wanted to nationalize the Anglo-American oil company while Allende was essentially a socialist. Yanukovych was neither of these things. He had no social platform other than doing what was best for Viktor Yanukovych and his friends. He was no enemy of the IMF and one way or another he would have had to impose some form of austerity on his own country. This is exactly what I mean when I say that anti-hegemony types are fighting a non-existent conflict. There is no resistance bloc against global capitalism. These people are only backing the losers in the game.

In this case the “Maidan Massacre” was featured in Western media as the result of an unstable, brutal pro-Russian Yanukovych Government. You may recall Yanukovych went along with the February 21 deal with opposition parties and 3 EU foreign minsters to get rid of him by calling for early elections. The next day that deal was meaningless when well-armed, neo-Nazi radicals forced Yanukovych to flee the country with repeated assassination attempts.
Stone is apparently considering a career as a comedy writer. First of all, Yanukovych fled after making that agreement on 21 February. I’ve seen no evidence of any assassination attempt on him and while some radicals had indeed obtained firearms, nobody in their right mind would call them “well armed.” Another important point about this agreement is that the leaders of the opposition parties did indeed sign it, but they clearly couldn’t control thousands of people on the streets. The fact that the new government continued to have problems with Maidan supporters and organizations throughout 2014 shows how limited their control was then.

A dirty story through and through, but in the tragic aftermath of this coup, the West has maintained the dominant narrative of “Russia in Crimea” whereas the true narrative is “USA in Ukraine.” The truth is not being aired in the West. It’s a surreal perversion of history that’s going on once again, as in Bush pre-Iraq ‘WMD’ campaign. But I believe the truth will finally come out in the West, I hope, in time to stop further insanity.

Let’s see here- Russian troops actually occupy the Crimea, and in a short time a referendum with no status quo option declares Crimea independent, then a part of the Russian Federation. How many US soldiers went to Ukraine in that time? How many are there now? Imagine Stone’s reaction if a brigade of American soldiers had arrived in Kyiv around February 21st to “defend protesters from potential reprisals by Yanukovych’s military.” Imagine against that background, the protesters seized government buildings and held a referendum to oust Yanukovych’s government. Do you think Stone would be fine with that? Of course not. What each and every one of these anti-hegemony dipshits fail to understand is the concept of principle. Are you against big, powerful nations using their military and economic leverage to push around smaller nations, or are you only against it when that nation is the US? This is why I became so alienated from much of the left this year- I opposed American imperialism because it was imperialist, not because it was American. Stone, of course, doesn’t have any principles. Rather than actually address problems in America and do something about them, he prefers to engage in conspiracy theories and pretend he has a friend in Moscow. And he speaks about stopping insanity.

One final point I want to make here is on this bullshit about how this “isn’t aired in the West.” I have nothing but contempt for people who hide behind phrases like, “this is something they don’t want you to know,” “everything you know is a lie,” or “this is the politically incorrect story.” These are all psychological ploys to make the audience more pliable to what they’re about to hear. Nobody wants to think they’ve been duped, and everybody rightly suspects what they receive from the media. The problem is, though, that while the Western media certainly didn’t report Stone’s fantasy version of events, you cannot say that the West was all-in for Maidan. Many Western publications and journalists published critical articles about Maidan, ranging from exposures of the right-wing elements in the protest to questioning the protesters’ belief that a European Union trade agreement would truly improve their situation. I have referenced and featured several of these articles on this blog throughout this year. Sure, you could say that on the whole, Western coverage was biased in favor of Maidan. But compare that to the pro-Russian coverage of Maidan, from internet sites like Globalization Research to RT.

Where have you ever seen a single article on any pro-Russian source which even begrudgingly concedes any point to the Maidan movement as a whole? Even from the beginning, when I was quite hostile to the Maidan movement, there were two points I could not even assail them on. One was the fact that Yanukovych was indeed incredibly corrupt and brought nothing positive to Ukraine. The other was that regardless of the politics of any specific group within the movement, at least these people were standing up for themselves. They thought they had been wronged by their government, so they stood up to that government and changed it. Contrast that to Russia where everybody drops their pants, bends over, and begs the government for “stability” they never receive in exchange for their dignity and freedom. Tell me where I can see even that modest nuance in the pro-Russian press when it comes to Maidan. According to them, it was all Nazi, all CIA-backed.
The problem with Stone is that he has the same thought process as many of the people who immediately threw their unqualified support behind Maidan. Stone doesn’t have any real background knowledge on Ukraine or Russia. He doesn’t know what the Yanukovych government was like, or what the Putin government is like. All he knows is that the Western media generally said that this movement was good and this president was bad. Ergo in typical lazy leftist fashion he decides that the movement must be backed by the CIA and Yanukovych’s regime must have been positive. Of course any time you ask one of these dupes about what such and such a regime was supposedly doing to piss off Washington so much, the answer is always that they are “resisting.” How they are resisting or why that is even positive is never mentioned. Nazi Germany was “resisting” Washington. ISIL is “resisting.”

I have a real problem with this tactic of labeling movements as CIA putsches as well. Readers of this blog will note that while my opinions about Maidan changed over time, mostly due to Russian reaction, I never suggested that the protest movement consisted of paid CIA shills. For one thing, I am very familiar with Ukrainian nationalism and I knew that nobody needed to pay those assholes to come out and run amok. And while NGOs no doubt had an influence on many other protesters, it’s important to realize that these organizations don’t pay people to protest, nor do they force them. Most of the time these Western NGOs exist because local governments don’t fund or encourage civil organizations. Some of these organizations are dedicated to one particular social ill, e.g. women trafficking and sexual exploitation. They are more or less non-political but must seek foreign funding as the government essentially ignores them if not eyes them with suspicion. Naturally these people will gravitate to political movements. What anti-hegemony types, lazy leftists, and naive populists can’t understand is that people listen to the message of these NGOs because their own governments offer virtually nothing positive or at best, fail to deliver on their promises. NGOs can shape and channel movements, but they do not conjure them out of thin air.

When you’re an outsider it’s easy to misunderstand people’s motives, so let me put it to you in this way. Did you protest against the Iraq war? Yes? How much did Saddam Hussein pay you? Were you at Occupy, or did you at least support the movement? You know RT did a lot of coverage of Occupy. Perhaps you were paid by the Russian government. Did you protest over Ferguson? How much did you get paid from that? You know some witnesses think that Darren Wilson might have been an outside-agitator working for Russian intelligence. I have criticized Maidan and the US on this blog. Do you suppose I get paid by the Kremlin? How does it feel to have not only your motives, but your very free will questioned by armchair geopolitical wonks? Is it not absurd? Are you not angered? The Kremlin loves to spread this cynical idea because that’s how it has operate for years. It conjures political movements out of thin air and it pays people to come to rallies. It has no other way of attracting support.

Oliver Stone, like many populists and phony leftists, is offering activists nothing more than a fantasy, a dead-end. Rather than actually stand up to power and fighting for justice, the Stones of the world would have us believe that we should sink all our energy in to supporting these alleged islands of “resistance” to the capitalist hegemony. So we follow their advice, and eventually this or that regime collapses due to its own incompetence and corruption. Then it begins again so we can turn another corrupt, bumbling dictator into the next Che Guevara. Isn’t this starting to get old? Does it not seem odd to anyone that the answer to America’s problems with student loans, police brutality, racism, and workers’ rights is to be found in Russia, where conditions are far worse? Does it not seem a bit more subversive to actually start doing something about that instead of carrying a torch for regimes you’ve never lived under?

Meh. What do I know? I need to cash my paychecks from the CIA and FSB so I can go party tonight.

Oliver Stone, you win 2014’s award for Useful Idiot of the Year.

2014, fuck you.