An Anti-imperialist and an Atlanticist Argue about Ukraine


After numerous previous escalating exchanges (with faint echoes of Jean-Paul Sartre versus Albert Camus), we came to this:

What you said a while ago was that bombings/war/invasion are bad and therefore you take this as an evidence that Putin/Russia is the primary responsible for this. While you cite Chomsky as a probable author to read when it comes to politics, you carefully ignore what he said during Maidan in 2014 because you claim without any ambiguity that NATO has nothing to do with this. While bombing is bad, you seem to agree that it is legitimate to bomb Irak and Lybia. There is only one logical conclusion for this: bombing is legitimate under certain circumstances. Circumstances which you accept for Lybia, but you don’t accept for Ukraine if Zelensky/Poroschenko/Yatsenuk are viewed by Russia as their Gaddafi/Saddam. You also claim that Russia has more neo-nazis then Ukraine and said that Putin himself is a neo-nazi (+dictator+…). How does that fit with the fact that the communist party of the Russian Federation comes 2nd in parliamentary elections and that communist organisations are banned in Ukraine? That’s the inconsistence from your side!

You are absolutely right, I am inconsistent on all the points you raised. “Inconsistent” means that I do not hew to an inflexible ideological standard — the making of equivalences between the situations you point out, and which you clearly think should be treated as equivalent (Ukraine=Libya: revolutions, interventions, bombings; Zelensky=tyrant and Nazi coddler; Russia=communist not fascist, but parliamentary).

I make judgments on the basis of what I see as “right” and “wrong” in each situation, and that means that at times I think “bombing is legitimate under certain circumstances.” I make those judgements on the basis of what I think will most help the people being brutally victimized at the moment (Libya in 2011, Syria 2011-now, Ukraine 2022). I don’t care about ideological (political) consistency, or which ideological “side” is “winning.” I care about the actual people those ideological “sides” are playing with — and oppressing, torturing, disappearing, gassing, and bombing.

In all your arguments you never reference those people nor give them a voice: what is it they want? You don’t really care, do you?, they don’t matter; what is important for you is that “your” ideological “side” not be disadvantaged as compared to the Great Satan’s (=US/NATO/EU) side: if the “US” can do it then “the other side” should be allowed to do it. Hence Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, Putin are all “anti-imperialists” and the populations they eradicate deserve it by the principle of the consistency of equivalence between ideological justifications for the application of power.

I am definitely politically-ideologically inconsistent. I see you as continuing to argue with me because deep down you know I am right both politically and morally, and that you don’t want to face that fact because all your arguments about “consistency” are about you trying to hide that you accept being inhuman by being willing to sacrifice populations being victimized by tyrants, in order to argue “consistently” against an ideological abstraction, “anti- US/NATO/EU imperialism” that you have absorbed into your self-image, as a supremely ennobling characteristic. Your arguments boil down to a defense of how you wish to think of yourself regardless of how many foreign civilians have to be murdered (by “your side”) to preserve that self-image.

Here is a little abstraction of the argument (by Zubêr Hatia) with regard to Ukraine:

Ukrainians: Putin has amassed a huge army on our borders.
Fools: He won’t invade – he’s just securing his own country!

Ukrainians: Putin has started the invasion from the East, from the South and from the North.
Fools: Its not an invasion – more of a temporary incursion; and he’s kindly left the West of the country open to allow those who want to leave!

Ukrainians: Putin is realising heavy losses – of soldiers lives and military equipment.
Fools: Lies! A few casualties at most… and he’s posthumously awarded medals to dead peacekeepers!

Ukrainians: Putin is shelling hospitals and clinics!
Fools: No! A popular vlogger who is pregnant and is spreading lies. Anyway, it wasn’t a hospital!

Ukrainians: Putin is committing war crimes against civilians.
Fools: They’re not civilians – they are neo Nazis!

Ukrainians: Please protect our skies (NFZ).
Fools: Warmongers!!

Syrians: We told you so about Putin.
Fools: Long live anti-imperialism! Long live whataboutery!!!


People who read any of this will take from it what they prefer to believe.


3 thoughts on “An Anti-imperialist and an Atlanticist Argue about Ukraine

  1. Marese Hegarty had this reaction:

    Yes. The denial of the agency of a people IS a form of internalised imperialism. The ‘Anti-western-imperialism-only’ brigade are as US/Eurocentric as the very institutions they claim to despise- and tend to read primarily what westerners have to say about conflicts that they are not at the centre of. Which is also a kind of racism.

  2. About my “An Anti-imperialist and an Atlanticist Argue about Ukraine”

    Bill Hennig:
    What’s the outcome???

    Manuel Garcia Jr.:
    It’s still being fought out, militarily, in Ukraine; and the propaganda wars among the comfortable Western critics (left, right,and center — which center doesn’t really exist anymore) will go on forever, which is to say until those critics actually experience real bombardments, real terror, and real fear for their lives in actual war. But America is pretty safe from real war, though it is somewhat possible that America could slide into a Second Civil War, since we live under a graft-oriented control freak militarized cop centered and corporate owned governing class, and there are so many dumb neo-Nazi Trump types who have zero knowledge of and education in actual world history, and U.S. history, and are basically pampered spoiled brat babies who just want their empty-headed biases and bigotries to be universal, so they can live in “their” kind of society with Confederate flags and Trump rallies, and without thinking about anything, like the interconnectedness of national economies, or climate change, or actual human needs of others including other Americans, or the actual future that is coming upon us from both increasing global warming and the continuing breakdown of civil societies worldwide brought on by the clash of petty money-making ambitions with the actual decay of the habitability of the entire planet. So, we’ll see.

  3. Alexander Pademelon Johnson is with Michael Karadjis and 14 others, shared the following:
    [weblink at bottom]

    Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis
    Robert Horvath
    (Senior lecturer, La Trobe University)

    Many commentators have already debunked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s absurd claim to be waging war to “de-nazify” Ukraine.

    Some have pointed out the far right received only 2% of the vote in Ukraine’s 2019 parliamentary elections, far less than in most of Europe. Others have drawn attention to Ukraine’s Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the efforts of the Ukrainian state to protect minorities like Crimean Tatars and LGBTQ+ people, who are subject to brutal persecution in Russia.

    What has received less coverage is the Putin regime’s own record of collaboration with far-right extremists. Even as Russian diplomats condemned “fascists” in the Baltic states and Kremlin propagandists railed against imaginary “Ukronazis” in power in Kyiv, the Russian state was cultivating its own homegrown Nazis.

    The roots of neo-Nazism in Putin’s Russia

    The origins of this relationship date to the late 1990s, when Russia was shaken by a wave of racist violence committed by neo-Nazi skinhead gangs. After Putin’s accession to the presidency in 2000, his regime exploited this development in two ways.

    First, it used the neo-Nazi threat to justify the adoption of anti-extremism legislation, a longstanding demand of some Russian liberals. Ultimately, this legislation would be used to prosecute Russian democrats.

    Second, the Kremlin launched “managed nationalism”, an attempt to co-opt and mobilise radical nationalist militants, including neo-Nazis, as a counterweight to an emerging anti-Putin coalition of democrats and leftist radicals.

    Moving Together, a pro-Putin youth organisation notorious for its campaign against postmodernist literature, made the first move by reaching out to OB88, the most powerful skinhead gang in Russia.
    This cooperation expanded in the aftermath of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004. To insulate Russia against the contagion of pro-democracy protest, the Kremlin transformed Moving Together into a more ambitious project called “Nashi”, or “Ours”.

    As part of its preparations to confront a potential democratic uprising in Russia, Nashi enlisted football gang members, whose subculture overlapped with the neo-Nazi underground.

    During 2005, Nashi’s thugs staged a series of raids on anti-Putin youth groups. The most violent attack, which left four left-wing activists in hospital, led to the arrest of the assailants. They were released after a visit to the police station from Nikita Ivanov, the Kremlin functionary who supervised the regime’s loyalist youth organisations.

    The resulting scandal provoked a reconfiguration of “managed nationalism”. While Nashi distanced itself from football gangs, its radical militants migrated to two rival Kremlin proxies, the nationalist “Young Russia” group and the anti-immigration “Locals” group. These organisations became bridges between the neo-Nazi subculture and the Kremlin.

    Neo-Nazi leaders implicated in killings

    As I demonstrated in a recent study of the Kremlin’s relationship with Russian fascists, these linkages made possible a bold experiment to create a pro-Putin neo-Nazi movement.

    In 2008-09, the Kremlin was threatened by Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny’s efforts to build an anti-Putin coalition of democrats and radical nationalists in Russia. In response, the Kremlin began to work with Russkii Obraz (“Russian Image”, or “RO” for short), a hardcore neo-Nazi group best known for its slick journal and its band, Hook from the Right.

    With the assistance of Kremlin supervisors, RO attacked nationalists who were abandoning the skinhead subculture for Navalny’s anti-Putin coalition. In return, RO was granted privileged access to public space and the media.

    Its leaders held televised public discussions with state functionaries and collaborated openly with Maksim Mishchenko, a member of parliament from the ruling party. Perhaps most shockingly, RO also hosted a concert by the infamous neo-Nazi band Kolovrat in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square, within earshot of the Kremlin.

    The problem for the Kremlin was that RO’s leader, Ilya Goryachev, was a fervent supporter of the neo-Nazi underground, the skinheads who committed hundreds of racist murders in the second half of the 2000s. The authorities turned a blind eye to RO’s production of a two-hour internet “documentary” titled Russian Resistance, which celebrated these killers as patriotic heroes and called for armed struggle against the regime.

    But they could not ignore the arrest on murder charges of Nikita Tikhonov, an ex-skinhead and cofounder of RO. Tikhonov was the leader of BORN (“Fighting Organisation of Russian Nationalists”), a terrorist group that committed a string of murders of public figures and antifa militants.
    The victims included the renowned human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Tikhonov was convicted of their murders in 2011.

    The police investigation revealed that Goryachev regarded BORN and RO as the armed and political platforms of a neo-Nazi insurgency, on the model of the IRA and Sinn Féin in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    The court materials show that as Goryachev was reporting to his Kremlin supervisors, he was also advising Tikhonov about the choice of murder victims. Goryachev was found guilty in 2015 of ordering the murders of numerous people, including Markelov.

    The adverse publicity wrecked the careers of some of the Kremlin’s Nazi promoters, but veterans of RO flourished in the propaganda institutions of Putin’s increasingly autocratic regime.

    One of them is Anna Trigga, who worked for the Internet Research Agency, the trolling factory that interfered in the 2016 US presidential election and tried to foment anti-Muslim hatred in Australia. Another is Andrei Gulyutin, editor of the website Ridus, an important platform of pro-Putin Russian nationalism.

    Promoting neo-Nazis overseas

    No less important is the role of neo-Nazis and other right-wing figures in Russia’s onslaught against Ukraine.

    In 2014, RO’s Aleksandr Matyushin helped to terrorise supporters of the Ukrainian state in Donetsk on the eve of Russia’s proxy war in eastern Ukraine. He went on to become a major field commander.
    Today, RO’s Dmitrii Steshin, a celebrated war correspondent for a mass circulation tabloid, disseminates lies blaming Ukrainian false-flag operations for atrocities committed by Russian forces.

    The Kremlin’s cultivation of domestic neo-Nazis is matched by its promotion of neo-Nazis in the West. Some have amplified anti-Western conspiracy theories as “experts” on RT, the Kremlin’s cable TV propaganda channel.

    Others have served the Kremlin as “monitors” who applaud the conduct of fraudulent elections. Meanwhile, Rinaldo Nazzaro, an American, has been quietly running The Base, the international neo-Nazi terrorist organisation, from an apartment in St Petersburg.

    Putin’s weaponisation of neo-Nazis was always a risky strategy, but it was not irrational. Unlike mainstream nationalists, who tend to support the idea of free elections, neo-Nazis reject democratic institutions and the very idea of human equality. For a dictator dismantling democracy and constructing an authoritarian regime, they were ideal accomplices.

    Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis
    Robert Horvath
    (Senior lecturer, La Trobe University)

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