From Spain through Orwell to Ukraine

The best analysis I have found of the Russian-Ukrainian War (RUW), and the international political environment that frames it, was written by George Orwell in 1943: Looking Back On The Spanish War. Related to that analysis are Orwell’s insights, in his 1949 essay Reflections on Gandhi, on the limits of pacifism — which is always an affectation of the bourgeois political Left — when confronted with the urgencies of a Just War. The defensive war being fought now by Ukrainians is a Just War.

In using Orwell’s essays to form an analogy between the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Russian-Ukrainian War of today, I rhetorically equate “Ukraine” with the Spanish Republic (the “Republicans,” the “Loyalists,” the democracy, the “reds”), and I rhetorically equate “Russia” with Francoist forces (the “rebels,” the Falangists, the Fascists, the “whites”). The analogy of 2022 Ukraine to 1930s Spain is not always perfect here, so I will occasionally use the symbol * to remind you of when I especially want to draw your attention to those relationships of analogy.

But first, let me present a summary, by Daphne Lawless, of the arguments within “leftist” circles, about Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia’s continuing aggression. After that I state my position on the war, and then proceed with the exercise in historical analogies, which I proposed at the outset.

Daphne Lawless (15 April 2022):

The really amazing thing is hearing old timer anti-imperialists/peace activists and young tankies alike, making PRECISELY the same arguments for why Russia should be left alone to do its wicked business in Ukraine as their sworn enemies – Zionists – do for Israel’s wicked deeds in occupied Palestine:

“The Ukrainians/Palestinians aren’t angels – in fact, some may even be fascists”,

“Russia/Israel is just defending its borders and its right to protect itself from its aggressive neighbours, who are using Palestine/Ukraine as a cat’s paw”,

“Why don’t Ukrainians/Palestinians just surrender to the stronger army to save lives?”

It’s especially amazing since they were so morally clear about why a regime infinitely more “dodgy” than Ukraine – Saddam’s Iraq or the Taliban’s Afghanistan – would not be improved by imperialist bombs and tanks. And they were right.

But then, they did the same thing in Syria, and in Bosnia – or even in East Timor, where it was explicitly argued that the consequences of Australia/NZ intervention would be much worse than simply leaving the Indonesian army to finish the genocide.

That logic was morally bankrupt then – a parody of the noble slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow”. The idea that actual genocide is tolerable as long as Western imperialism doesn’t get involved is leading to an explicit alliance between communists/socialists and actual fascists – just like it did in the 1930s.

I stand with the rights of ALL oppressed people to resist imperialist aggression and invasion; and for their rights to use ANY MEANS NECESSARY to defend themselves, including buying a fuckton of arms from whomever will sell to them. YES, that means, for example, I defend the Solomon Islands’ right to do a deal with PR China should they choose to do so. To argue otherwise (because it might be of benefit to the imperialism that you, personally, oppose) is to say to those people: “it is better for you to die, for your children to be enslaved/stripped of their culture, than for a certain imperialist power to get any advantage over the other one which happens to be genociding you”.

It is an abstract, inhumane politics which sees only states where there are suffering people. It is a blindspot which is just unchallenged on most of the activist Left, and it is one reason why “normies” have no interest in Left organisations.

MG,Jr. response to Daphne Lawless:

I agree that Daphne Lawless’s statement (above) is superb.

I had a very dear friend, Louis Proyect (RIP) who was the best-informed Marxist I had ever met, and I learned much from him. Besides his encyclopedic knowledge of Marxism (Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, everything) and of international affairs, his outstanding gift as a political analyst was that he never lost sight of the true goal of all such activity: to always relieve human suffering — even if sacrificing one’s ideological consistency was necessary at times. That focus on people first is what set Louis above all the legions of campists, and tankies, and bourgeois recreational Leftists I have seen across the Internet this century.

So, yes, “class analysis” is good, “dialectical materialism” is amusing (the Old Communist who took Jorge Semprún under his wing in the German WWII concentration camp explained it to Jorge: “Dialectical materialism means always landing on your feet”), but it is also materially, factually, historically true that sometimes NATO is good too. You can only see this if you can accept: people over ideology.

About campists and tankies: They obsess so much about what they are “against,” that they blind themselves to what they should be “for.” “Campism” is the modern continuation of Stalinism. “Tankism” is the ignoramus variety of campism.

I am not interested in ideology, I am interested in moral truths that help people generally. Such truths are always beyond the narrow confines of ideology — “political” or “religious” — and in fact are so simple that children and even animals can instinctively understand them. It takes intelligence, education and maturity to be able to find excuses justifying murderous immorality. And it takes intelligence, education and “maturity” to be able to encrust very limited thinking with jargon so as to project a facade of commanding erudition. It is my impression that for most people (even the “smart ones”) that their political awareness boils down to confirmation bias and witch burning.

Daphne stated the facts very clearly. If you cannot agree with them it is not because Daphne is factually in error, but because you are intent to defend an idea you personally identify with, despite it being contradicted by objective reality. This is not uncommon (unfortunately), it is called cognitive dissonance.

George Orwell on the Spanish war [and parallels to Ukraine, and elsewhere, today]:

“The essential horror of army life…is barely affected by the nature of the war you happen to be fighting in. Discipline, for instance, is ultimately the same in all armies. Orders have to be obeyed and enforced by punishment if necessary, the relationship of officer and man has to be the relationship of superior and inferior. The picture of war set forth in books like All Quiet on the Western Front is substantially true. Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers. It is true that the social background from which a army springs will colour its training, tactics and general efficiency, and also that the consciousness of being in the right can bolster up morale, though this affects the civilian population more than the troops. (People forget that a soldier anywhere near the front line is usually too hungry, or frightened, or cold, or, above all, too tired to bother about the political origins of the war.) But the laws of nature are not suspended for a “red” army any more than for a “white” one. A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just. Why is it worthwhile to point out anything so obvious? Because the bulk of the British and American intelligentsia were manifestly unaware of it then, and are now.”
Looking Back on the Spanish War (LBOTSW)

“As far as the mass of the people go, the extraordinary swings of opinion which occur nowadays, the emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of newspaper and radio hypnosis. In the intelligentsia I should say they result rather from money and mere physical safety…We have become too civilised to grasp the obvious. For the truth is very simple. To survive you often have to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself. War is evil, and it is often the lesser evil. Those who take the sword perish by the sword, and those who don’t take the sword perish by smelly diseases. The fact that such a platitude is worth writing down shows what the years of rentier capitalism have done to us.”
— LBOTSW

“I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved solely on the grounds of political predilection. Everybody believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without bothering to examine the evidence. Recently I drew up a table of atrocities during the period between 1918 and the present [1943]…there was hardly a single case when the Left and the Right believed in the same stories simultaneously. And stranger yet, at any moment the situation can suddenly reverse itself and yesterday’s proved-to-the-hilt atrocity story can become a ridiculous lie, merely because the political landscape has changed.”
— LBOTSW

“…the Left, the people who normally pride themselves on their incredulity…”
— LBOTSW

“The truth, it is felt, becomes untrue when your enemy utters it…But unfortunately the truth about atrocities is far worse than that they are lied about and made into propaganda. The truth is that they happen. The fact often adduced as a reason for scepticism — that the same horror stories come up in war after war — merely makes it rather more likely that those stories are true. Evidently they are widespread fantasies, and war provides an opportunity of putting them into practice. Also, although it has ceased to be fashionable to say so, there is little question that what one may roughly call the ‘whites’ [autocracies, conservatives, fascists — MG,Jr.] commit far more and worse atrocities than the ‘reds.’ [democracies, liberals, socialists — MG,Jr.]…The volume of testimony is enormous…These things really happened, and that is the thing to keep one’s eye on.”
— LBOTSW

“The broad truth about the war [1936-1939 — MG,Jr.] is simple enough. The Spanish bourgeoisie saw their chance of crushing the labour movement, and took it, aided by the Nazis and by the forces of reaction all over the world.”
— LBOTSW

The broad truth about the Russian-Ukrainian War is that the Russian autocracy of Vladimir Putin thought it saw a chance of crushing Ukrainian independence and recolonizing Ukraine, and took it, and the nature of all the other governments around the world can be gauged by their responses to Russia’s aggression, and which responses must certainly arise out of sympathy with or antipathy to Russia’s war goals, because they either mirror or conflict with the closely held political desires of those governments.

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. [Look up ”Frank Pitcairn” for more about this — MG,Jr.]…I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’…But the broad picture of the war which the Spanish* government presented to the world was not untruthful. The main issues were what it said they were. But as for the Fascists* and their backers, how could they come even as near to the truth as that? How could they possibly mention their real aims? Their version of the war was pure fantasy, and in the circumstances it could not have been otherwise. The only propaganda line open to the Nazis* and Fascists* was to represent themselves as Christian patriots saving Spain* from a Russian [1930s — MG,Jr.] dictatorship. This involved pretending that life in Government Spain* was just one long massacre.”
— LBOTSW

This is exactly the template of the current Russian propaganda about their war in Ukraine. The bogeyman of a looming Russian (Stalinist) dictatorship in 1930s Spain projected by the Spanish Fascists and their backers (primarily Germany and Italy) has its parallel today in the Russian-Ukrainian War with Vladimir Putin’s propagandistic projection of the bogeyman of a looming Azov Battalion style neo-Nazi dictatorship seizing control of (in fact already controlling) the entire Ukrainian nation. It is remarkable how closely Vladimir Putin’s projection of a casus belli onto Ukraine mirrors the nature of his own regime in Russia.

“This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history.”
— LBOTSW

“But is it perhaps childish or morbid to terrify oneself with visions of a totalitarian future?…Against the shifting phantasmagoric world in which black may be white tomorrow and yesterday’s weather can be changed by decree, there are in reality only two safeguards. One is that however much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing, as it were, behind your back, and you consequently can’t violate it in ways that impair military efficiency. The other is that so long as some parts of the earth remain unconquered, the liberal tradition can be kept alive. Let fascism, or possibly even a combination of several fascisms, conquer the whole world, and those two conditions no longer exist. We in England [and America — MG,Jr.] underrate the danger of this kind of thing, because our traditions and our past security have given us a sentimental belief that it all comes right in the end and the thing you most fear never really happens. Nourished for hundreds of years on a literature [movies, for Americans — MG,Jr.] in which Right invariably triumphs in the last chapter, we believe half-instinctively that evil always defeats itself in the long run. Pacifism, for instance, is founded largely on this belief. Don’t resist evil, and it will somehow destroy itself. But why should it? What evidence is there that it does? And what instance is there of a modern industrialized state collapsing unless conquered from the outside by military force?”
— LBOTSW

“In the long run — it is important to remember that it is only in the long run — the working class remains the most reliable enemy of fascism, simply because the working class stands to gain most by a decent reconstruction of society. Unlike other classes or categories, it can’t be permanently bribed. To say this is not to idealise the working class…Time after time, in country after country, the organized working class movements have been crushed by open, illegal violence, and their comrades abroad, linked to them in theoretical solidarity, have simply looked on and done nothing; and underneath this, secret cause of many betrayals, has lain the fact that between white and coloured workers there is not even lip-service to solidarity. Who can believe in the class-conscious international proletariat after the events of the past ten years? To the British working class the massacres of their comrades in Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, or wherever it might be seemed less interesting and less important than yesterday’s football match. [Americans behave identically — MG,Jr.] Yet this does not alter the fact that the working class will go on struggling against fascism after the others have caved in. One feature of the Nazi conquest of France was the astonishing defections among the intelligentsia, including some of the left-wing political intelligentsia. The intelligentsia are the people who squeal loudest against fascism, and yet a respectable proportion of them collapse into defeatism when the pinch comes. They are far-sighted enough to see the odds against them, and moreover they can be bribed — for it is evident that the Nazis think it worth while to bribe intellectuals. With the working class it is the other way about. Too ignorant to see through the trick being played on them, they easily swallow the promises of fascism, yet sooner of later they always take up the struggle again. They must do so, because in their own bodies they always discover that the promises of fascism cannot be fulfilled. To win over the working class permanently, the fascists would have to raise the general standard of living, which they are unable and probably unwilling to do…What are the workers struggling for? Simply for the decent life which they are more and more aware is now technically possible…The common people knew in their bones that the Republic* was their friend and Franco* was their enemy. They knew that they were in the right, because they were fighting for something which the world owed them and was able to give them.”
— LBOTSW

“When one thinks of the cruelty, squalor, and futility of war…there is always the temptation to say: ‘One side is as bad as the other. I am neutral.’ In practice, however, one cannot be neutral, and there is hardly such a thing as a war in which it makes no difference who wins. Nearly always one side stands more or less for progress, the other side more or less for reaction. The hatred which the Spanish Republic excited in millionaires, dukes, cardinals, play-boys, blimps [e.g., Donald Trump, Bashar al-Assad, Xi Jinping], and what-not would in itself be enough to show one how the land lay. In essence it was a class war. If it had been won [and this time I hope it will be — MG,Jr.], the cause of the common people everywhere would have been strengthened.”
— LBOTSW

“The outcome of the Spanish war was settled in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin — at any rate, not in Spain. After the summer of 1937 those with eyes in their heads realised that the Government could not win the war unless there were some profound change in the international set-up…[dare I say massive weapons transfers to Ukraine and forgiving its foreign debt, dare I say Russia blocked in the UN by its reorganization, dare I say: NATO — MG,Jr.]…The Fascists won [in 1939 — MG,Jr.] because they were the stronger; they had modern arms and the others hadn’t. No political strategy can offset that.”
— LBOTSW

“Whether it was right…to encourage the Spaniards* to go on fighting when they could not win [if unsupported and undersupplied from abroad — MG,Jr.] is a question hard to answer. I myself think it was right, because I believe that it is better even from the point of view of survival to fight and be conquered than to surrender without fighting.”
— LBOTSW

“When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity…But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings. Behind all the ballyhoo that is talked about…lies the simple intention of those with money or privileges to cling to them…The damned impertinence of these politicians, priests, literary men, and what-not who lecture the working-class socialist for his ‘materialism’! All that the working man demands is what these others would consider the indispensable minimum without which human life cannot be lived at all. Enough to eat, freedom from the haunting terror of unemployment, the knowledge that your child will get a fair chance, a bath once a day, clean linen reasonably often, a roof that doesn’t leak, and short enough working hours to leave you with a little energy when the day is done. Not one of those who preach against “materialism” would consider life livable without these things. And how easily that minimum could be attained if we chose to set our minds to it for only twenty years! To raise the standard of living of the whole world to that of Britain would not be a greater undertaking than the war [WWII — MG,Jr.] we have just fought. I don’t claim, and I don’t know who does, that that would solve anything in itself [politically — MG,Jr.]. It is merely that privation and brute labour have to be abolished before the real problems of humanity can be tackled. [We cannot effectively tackle Climate Change until we first ‘Make poverty history,’ as Nelson Mandela said — MG,Jr.]…

“How right the working classes are in their ‘materialism’! How right they are to realise that the belly comes before the soul, not in the scale of values but in point of time! All the considerations that are likely to make one falter — the siren voices of a Petain [or Marine Le Pen — MG,Jr.] or of a Gandhi, the inescapable fact that in order to fight one has to degrade oneself, the equivocal moral position of Britain [and the United States — MG,Jr.], with its democratic phrases and coolie empire, the sinister development of Soviet Russia [and again! — MG,Jr.] the squalid farce of left-wing politics — all this fades away and one sees only the struggle of the gradually awakening common people against the lords of property and their hired liars and bumsuckers. The question is very simple. Shall people…be allowed to live the decent, fully human life which is now technically achievable, or shan’t they? Shall the common man be pushed back into the mud, or shall he not? I myself believe, perhaps on insufficient grounds, that the common man will win his fight sooner of later, but I want it to be sooner and not later — some time within the next hundred years, say, and not some time within the next ten thousand years. That was the real issue of the Spanish war, and the last war, and perhaps of other wars yet to come.”
— LBOTSW

George Orwell on Gandhi and pacifism:

“Of late years it has been the fashion to talk about Gandhi as though he were not only sympathetic to the Western left-wing movement, but were integrally part of it. Anarchists and pacifists, in particular, have claimed him for their own, noticing only that he was opposed to centralism and State violence and ignoring the other-worldly, anti-humanist tendency of his doctrines. But one should, I think, realize that Gandhi’s teachings cannot be squared with the belief that Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living on this earth, which is the only earth we have. They make sense only on the assumption that God exists and that the world of solid objects is an illusion to be escaped from…But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is ‘higher.’ The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all ‘radicals’ and ‘progressives,’ from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.”
Reflections on Gandhi [ROG]

“Even after he had completely abjured violence he was honest enough to see that in war it is usually necessary to take sides. He did not — indeed, since his whole political life centered round a struggle for national independence, he could not — take the sterile and dishonest line of pretending that in every war both sides are exactly the same and it makes no difference who wins. Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialize in avoiding awkward questions. In relation to the late war [WWII — MG,Jr.], one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: ‘What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?’ [And since WWII we have been faced with the same question for many other populations: Palestinians, Mayans, Bosnians, Rwandans, East Timorese, Libyans, Syrians, Rohingya, among others, and now in light of the Bucha atrocities, Ukrainians — MG,Jr.] I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I heard plenty of evasions…

“But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a somewhat similar question in 1938 and that his answer…was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which ‘would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.’ After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly…

“Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths…

“It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the régime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard from again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practice civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukrainian famine, it would make no difference.”
— ROG

“But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one’s own government, or against an occupying power [on the order of Britain and colonial India — MG,Jr.]: even so, how does one put it into practice internationally?…Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement. Moreover the assumption, which served Gandhi so well in dealing with individuals, that all human beings are more or less approachable and will respond to a generous gesture, needs to be seriously questioned. It is not necessarily true, for example, when you are dealing with lunatics. Then the question becomes: Who is sane? Was Hitler sane? And is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another? And, so far as one can gauge the feelings of whole nations, is there any apparent connection between a generous deed and a friendly response? Is gratitude a factor in international politics?”
— ROG

The extraordinary thing about Orwell is that he so clearly states the obvious about the social conditions of the times, then and now, and which few can even bring themselves to face without excuses, fantasies and lies, if at all.

So, to conclude:

The Ukrainians are fighting a Just War of defense against ongoing Russian aggression, which includes mass atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians.

There is no morally justifiable pacifist response to this war, nor morally justifiable position of neutrality regarding it.

All excuses advanced to justify the Russian aggression in Ukraine, by both Vladimir Putin and “anti-imperialists” opposed only to US-NATO-Western “expansionism,” are complete lies aimed at enforcing inhuman ideologies in the forms of:

Conquest and colonization — Russian imperialism:
the destruction of the Ukrainian state and culture, and the subjugation of its people, and

Ideological consistency over the relief of human suffering:
the opposition by “anti-imperialists” of assistance to Ukraine regardless of how many Ukrainians would die as a result, because those anti-imperialists do not want any weakening of Russian opposition to Washington-consensus geopolitical power, nor any expansion of that power, as a result of any assistance the United States, in particular, might render Ukraine.

Helping Ukraine win its war as quickly as possible is the right thing to do, not just for the benefit of Ukraine, but for the moral and political advancement of the whole world.

“This is the nature of war: by protecting others you save yourself.”
Seven Samurai (1954)

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Dear Russian Widows

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Dear Russian Widows

I grieve with you. And I grieve with you, Ukrainian widows and widowers and orphans and heartbroken lovers dropping your tears in the cold dusty blackened ruins of your invaded cities, towns and villages.

It is reported here, in the United States of America, that at least 7,000 to as many as 14,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during this first month (24 February – 24 March, 2022) of Russia’s — Vladimir Putin’s — invasion of Ukraine. So, sadly, there are now up to 14,000 more Russian families with new widows and newly heartbroken lovers grieving for their young men sacrificed in a war as the blood lubrication for the gears of the ponderous and plodding machinery tracking your would-be emperor’s ambitions of conquest and power into the fields and streets of Ukraine. And now all your young newly widowed Russian women, and newly bereft Russian mothers, are reliving the anguish and grief suffered by an older generation of Russian women whose young men were taken by the tragically disastrous Russian war in Afghanistan forty years ago, and many of those women may have been robbed of their chances to become happy grandmothers.

Who can doubt that on 24 February 2022, many Poles instantly thought of 1 September 1939, and 17 September 1939; and that many Danes, Norwegians, Belgians, Dutch and French instantly thought of April and May 1940; and that many Russians, along with Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Ukrainians instantly thought of 22 June 1941?

The trauma of a heartless dictator’s destructive invasion of your country to subjugate it as an exploitable colony and then carry out a campaign of continuous mass murder, is not soon dissipated from the historical memory of succeeding generations of those previously conquered nations, and the hollow feeling of seeing this happen again, two to three generations later during their young and modern 21st century lives, quickly steels the youth of those countries today into a resolve to fight off the invader and preserve their national independence, and national honor, and national pride. And such resolve can make them fight to the death because they feel sanctified by history and by the truest morality that every human of any age instinctively understands.

So your poor Russian soldiers are here at a great disadvantage, because as they awaken to any degree of the truth of their situation, they will know that they can not be justified and ennobled by any moral principles, they are just being used as expendable tools to perpetrate war crimes at the service of your Caesar, Putin’s imperial ambitions.

And I grieve with you because all the foreigners sympathetic to the plight of the Ukrainians, either because of resonant echoes of painful memories from their own national histories, or from simple emotional reactions against the outrageous injustices being inflicted on Ukraine, will contribute to efforts to resupply, rearm, fortify and accept refugees from Ukraine so it can continue, and hopefully win, its defensive war against the Russian military, and against Vladimir Putin’s inhuman ideology.

And I, too, am sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause. But this then means that my sympathy, along with many others whose sympathy is expressed as military assistance, will necessarily kill more Russian soldiers and create more Russian widows, and more bereft Russian mothers, fathers, and lovers. And I grieve that such increased pain to the Russian people is impossible to avoid with any effort to relieve the massive injustice and massive pain being inflicted on the Ukrainian people. I grieve that in being sympathetic to a people afflicted with a cruel and unjust invasive war, I am inextricably guilty of adding to the increasing grief of the Russian people whose young men are being consumed in that war.

During my youthful adult years, the United States was prosecuting its own massively unjust imperialistic war — against “communism” — in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. The Vietnamese simply wanted to unify their country, which was briefly liberated from both the French colonizers and Japanese imperialists during 1945, and continue as an independent nation free to use its natural resources and peasant agricultural economy for the well-being of its own people, and to be free to have their own Vietnamese rulers, both the honest ones and the pocket-lining corrupt ones as exist in every government, and to fashion their nation as a “communist” one, that is to say with some degree of beneficial collectivization, and some degree of insulated hierarchical power, which power and patronage pyramids are blemishes (or gaping sores) of every government everywhere, whether it calls itself “capitalist,” “democratic,” “socialist,” or “communist.”

My country, the United States, sent a Marine invasion in 1965 to prosecute a massive land war, and helicopter war, and aerial bombardment war in Vietnam till late 1972, which was continued by the Vietnamese troops of the South Vietnamese puppet government till it collapsed in April 1975. During the 13 years or so of direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam (1962-1975, previously the U.S. had funded the French war to recolonize Vietnam, 1946-1954, after its liberation with the defeat of Japan in August 1945), the U.S. military sent in about 1 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and women nurses, whose collective work resulted in perhaps 2.5-3 million Vietnamese killed, and perhaps up to 3.5-4 million people killed in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, as sections of the latter two nations were also heavily bombarded and chemically defoliated).

Of those approximately 1 million U.S. military personnel that passed through Southeast Asia during the American war there, just over 58,000 of them were killed, and many thousands more suffered debilitating physical and psychological wounds that lasted, and are lasting, till their deaths.

The Vietnamese Communist Party, which was conducting its war of national liberation, and defensive war against American aggression against their unified communist national aspirations, was desperate to receive whatever foreign assistance it could get in the way of arms and humanitarian supplies to combat such an awesome enemy. It was “communist” Russia and “communist” China that supplied the better arms the Communist Party of Vietnam acquired to fight the Americans. The governments of Russia and China did this in part because of “communist solidarity,” but also in large part out of “superpower” — that is to say, imperialist — rivalry with the alternative capitalist empire of the Americans and their associated Western Allies.

I say “alternative capitalist empire” because both Russia and China were also basically capitalist but in the form of state-monopolized top-down command capitalism, instead of the American form of lightly regulated largely disorganized privatized capitalism that bought self-aggrandizing government influence and insulation from public responsibility and popular democracy. America’s “colonies” are foreign zones of extractive economic exploitation. The colonies of Russia’s empire — its zones of extractive economic exploitation by Kremlin leaders — were the captive nations within the U.S.S.R. (like Ukraine) as well as the captive nations within the East Bloc, behind what Winston Churchill called the “Iron Curtain.”

The Communist Party of China (its exclusive power and patronage pyramid and nomenklatura), like Russia, envisioned itself as an insular empire with internal colonies, stretching in the west from Xinjiang (with the oppressed Uyghurs, a Turkic and Islamic people) and Tibet (annexed by China in 1951, and Tibetans are a different ethnicity than the dominant Han Chinese) in Central Asia, east to the Pacific Ocean, north from what used to be called Manchuria (north of the Korean peninsula) to south with Hainan island in the South China Sea, and out to the still independent and very western-style capitalist Chinese island nation of Taiwan.

In the extremity of their situation during their thirty years of wars of national independence (1945-1975), the Communist Party of Vietnam could not concern itself with the multipolar superpower rivalries between the Chinese (whom they traditionally hated from previous centuries of conquests and oppression), the Russians who were using them as proxies to bleed the Americans in their Russian-American “Cold War,” and their own very immediate and massively destructive American invaders trying to force them to be “capitalists.” They took what arms and supplies and money they could get from sympathetic foreigners to keep their struggle for independence alive.

And such is the situation of the Ukrainians today, as it was for the Afghans during the 1980s when the United States supplied the Afghan Mujahideen with shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile weapons, as the Americans sought revenge against the Russians for the very useful help (as with anti-aircraft missile systems) the Russians had rendered the Vietnamese Communists during the 1960s and early 1970s.

That United States policy for Afghanistan was initiated as a covert action by a Polish-American government official, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), who was born in Warsaw and left Poland in 1938 as a 10 year old boy with his family when his Polish diplomat father was posted to Montreal, Canada. Brzezinski was obviously motivated by his memory of Stalin’s ravaging of his homeland, and not just by a desire to be of foreign policy service to the 1978 American government he had become a part of.

So from Stalin’s Red Army and NKVD in Poland in 1939, to Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s (and Henry Kissinger’s) U.S. military in Vietnam in 1962-1975, to Leonid Brezhnev’s and the Kremlin’s Russian military in Afghanistan during its war there from 1979 to 1989 (when the Berlin Wall fell), to now with the Russian-Ukrainian War, it has been tit-for-tat bleeding of each other by rival superpowers (that is to say, nuclear armed empires) using the wars of small nations struggling desperately to gain their freedom and independence. And it is the freedom and independence of those small nations that are the only morally justifiable aspects of this chained cycle of superpower vengeance by proxy, through wars of independence so cruelly destructive of and callously inflicted on the small nations that have to wage them.

While eventually the small nations, invaded and crushed by the murderous onslaughts of the huge wars prosecuted by the major world powers during the 20th century, gained varying degrees of freedom, independence, stability and prosperity, the one universal outcome of all those wars was the creation of many millions of dead, many millions of physically and mentally traumatized, and many millions of surviving widows, orphans, widowers, and bereft lovers.

That truth has been captured in many mournful songs of lament, and one that especially affects me is “High Germany” as sung by my younger daughter. Of course, it is the personal effect of hearing her lovely voice, besides just the sentiment of that Celtic ballad, that makes for such an emotional effect on me. Over a century ago, young men from Scotland, a Celtic nation conquered and absorbed by England in 1651 (and formally incorporated into the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707) were drafted into the English Army to go fight Germany during World War I. Young men from other Celtic territories earlier captured by the English (Wales, Cornwall, the Northern Counties of Ireland) were also sent a-soldiering for the British Crown. And 895,000 of those, mostly young men, from the United Kingdom died in WWI. As we know, there were also many wounded and traumatized veterans, and many grieving families and lovers of those lost, in fact a “Lost Generation.” It is the lingering heartbreak of such grief by the survivors of the powerless people sent to fight those wars by their imperial masters, that is the essence of that song.

High Germany
25 February 2018
https://youtu.be/2QybAQVv6jE

And today those powerless pawns sent to bleed and die for their national Caesar’s ambition to reconstitute a rump insular neo-Stalinist empire by recapturing Ukraine (independent from 1991), are Russian soldiers, who like their American counterparts today are most likely in the military because of a paucity of decent good-paying civilian jobs.

The command structure of your Russian military is more attuned to Putin’s imperialistic ambitions, because like the American military command structure during the 1960s, they are careerists and have a triumphalist attitude gained by their facility at massively bombing unarmed and barely-armed civilian populations: Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian for the Americans, while Chechen and Syrian for the Russians.

Stopping these predatory wars by superpowers is so difficult because the perpetrating governments are largely immune from civilian humanitarian sentiments and popular democracy (naturally, they are empires), and only military mutinies and revolutionary changes of government can really stop their nation’s wars. Was this not so with the Russian Revolution in 1917?, and with the escalating military mutinies by U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen between about 1969 through 1972? Thoughtful Americans today are proud of their war resistors and protestors of the 1960s and 1970s, just as your thoughtful Russians will be proud in years to come of your brave war resistors and protestors today. If only such civilian resistance to their nation’s wars of choice were more effective at preventing and stopping them; and if only a greater portion of the militaries of our nations would revolt against prosecuting such wars of choice, and thus render the greatest service soldiers can render their nations’s people — the actual people.

But as with you in Russia, we here in the United States also have our thoughtless and inhuman people who define their allegiances not with humanity and its sufferings anywhere, but with their own selfish careerist ambitions couched as principled concerns for supra-human and exclusionary ideological political abstractions, which they like to imagine elevate their intellectual pretensions and ennoble their moral characters.

So among your Russians you have those who follow Vladimir Putin canard of seeking to “de-nazify” Ukraine, despite “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” —

Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis
Robert Horvath
(Senior Lecturer, La Trobe University)
https://theconversation.com/putins-fascists-the-russian-states-long-history-of-cultivating-homegrown-neo-nazis-178535

And we here in the United States have allies of that oligarchic-authoritarian anti-feminist, homophobic, White Supremacist ideology, and who have no sincere sympathy for Ukraine under attack, such as Donald Trump — our sociopathic narcissistic previous president who lauds Vladimir Putin whom he sees as mirroring his own ambitions — and the entirety of our Republic Party (and Abraham Lincoln would weep to see what has become of the party he was the first US president of).

But we here in the United States also have “leftists”and declared “socialists” who have no sincere sympathy with the Ukrainian people, because they are wrapped up in their self-delusions of themselves as highly enlightened anti-nazis, and “anti-imperialists,” by which they mean anti-US imperialism only, and that includes in their minds their idea of “NATO expansionism.” For them any “enemy of US imperialism and NATO expansion,” however despicable and murderously dictatorial they may be to their own people, such as Muammar Gaddafi was and Bashar al-Assad is, are worthy of their consideration and defense, because for them thwarting US imperialism (both actual and imagined) is always more important than forthrightly helping to relieve actual terrorized people of their murderous oppression by their tyrannical rulers.

Such ideological and thus effectively inhuman leftists myopically, and really narcissistically, see themselves as having a “higher purpose” like the journalist “Frank Pitcairn” who was a propaganda agent for Stalin during the Spanish Civil War and wrote dispatches for the Irish press that were pure lies intended to further Stalin’s campaign to betray the Socialist Revolution in Spain during 1937 in his effort to have his Communist cadres gain complete control of the Spanish Republican government. That cynical campaign by Stalin resulted in the tortures and murders by the NKVD of socialists and anarchists in Spain not controlled by Stalin, and thus sapped the strongest moral force fighting against Francisco Franco’s fascist revolt against the democratically elected Spanish Republican government.

Franco was backed militarily by Hitler and Mussolini, and economically by Great Britain. The Spanish proletarians who manned the most effective and motivated anti-fascist forces were organized as the Socialist and Anarchist militias fighting for proletarian dignity and economic independence within a projected Socialist Spain. Once the socialist national dream for Spain was violently quashed in May 1937 by the combined forces of Stalin’s organs of repression and Spanish Communist troops directed from the Kremlin, and the military forces of the anti-Francoist Spanish bourgeoisie, the spirit animating the defense of the Spanish Republic dissipated and the war ended in a terrible defeat in 1939, followed by almost four decades of Francoist dictatorship during which more Spanish anarchists, socialists, communists and republicans were executed than had been killed during the Civil War itself.

I had a grand-uncle who was a violinist with a pre-war Spanish symphony orchestra, who was jailed for a time by Franco after 1939 for being an opponent of the regime — a classical violinist! So, I have an animus to the “Frank Pitcairn” types, the self-declared and comfortable Western leftists who defend rather than decry tyrants who oppress, torture, disappear, gas and bomb their unarmed civilian populations seeking reforms against their government’s oligarchic corruption, and for their own democratic participation in charting their nation’s course, because those Frank Pitcairn types are consumed with approval-seeking (from Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s, and from like-minded internet audiences today) and burnishing their own self-delusions of having superior worthiness as politically advanced and thus presumably morally elevated “US-only anti-imperialists.” Their lovingly satisfying gazing into their own self-referential mirrors are not to be interrupted by any concerns for the sufferings of actual people being killed by dictators and regimes nominally opposed to “US imperialism,” and so those oppressed populations, by “anti-imperialist” ideologically necessary definition, “deserve it” because they are Nazis in Ukraine, and al-Qaeda in Libya and Syria.

All the arguments by these “anti-imperialists” boil down to a defense of how they wish to think of themselves, regardless of how many foreign civilians have to be murdered (by approved of foreign “anti-imperialist” potentates) to preserve that self-image. And Vladimir Putin’s organs of disinformation and propaganda gleefully use these Western “anti-imperialist” poseurs to help perpetrate his many war crimes since 2000, when he gained power, and most recently in Syria and Ukraine.

So I now find that I am more isolated politically than I used to believe was possible, because the “leftist community” that I identified with and once imagined was at least unified by some wonderful human-centered principles of solidarity by class — the “working class,” “the proletariate,” “the voters,” “the people,” as opposed to the wealth and power classes of oligarchs and “capitalists” and corporations and “nomenklatura type” politicians — a human-centered solidarity that cut across national boundaries and ethnic differences, has been vividly exposed by the war in Ukraine to be irredeemably fractured between Frank Pitcairn type rigid ideologues of very selective anti-imperialism and of inconsistent sympathy with oppressed populations, and George Orwell type inconsistent ideologues for anti-imperialism, with consistent sympathy for oppressed populations. The essence here is whether one identifies with one or another of the power pyramids engaged in the “multipolar” (one of Putin’s favorite words in his apologetics of his imperialism) rivalry between the major power pyramids, or “superpowers,” vying for greater control of world populations and their economics, or whether one identifies indiscriminately with “the workers” and the actual “ordinary” people of the world, who universally want safe, secure, decently prosperous and not exploited lives for themselves and their families in stable democratic non-contending nation-states.

What we really need in the world today is for NATO to expand globally to encompass EVERY country on Earth: every nation pledged to come to the immediate aid and defense of any nation that happens to experience a crisis or catastrophe, be it of political origins like a military invasion or a civil war brought on my dictatorial megalomania, or a catastrophe of natural origins like a tsunami, an earthquake, floods, crop failures and famine, or Climate Change.

Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) is a pernicious geophysical positive feedback loop of negative consequences for planetary habitability, being a human caused and accelerated effect driven by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (primarily methane) exhausted from the burning of fossil fuels used to generate the heat-energy that powers so much of “our” capitalist and militarist and imperialist ambitions. The only way GWCC can be slowed and eventually stopped before it makes organized human life — human civilization — impossible because of the heat-induced onslaught of many irreversible and catastrophic environmental changes, is for an internationally cooperative and unified and permanently sustained maximum effort to quickly abandon the use of fossil fuels everywhere, and to power all human activities from naturally sustainable sources such as by solar, wind, hydrological and geothermal power.

Such an internationally integrated worldwide anti-GWCC effort would necessarily define a new reality of World Socialism: “all for one and one for all.” The transformation of one’s own country for a Post-Carbon World, along with its assistance offered to and cooperation given with other countries engaged in their own self-transformations to the post-carbon paradigm, would necessarily be leveling socialist economic revolutions nationally and globally. Both the “communist” labeled command-capitalist oligarchies and the “capitalist” labeled corporate “free market” oligarchies would have had to fall away in favor of a broad socialism centered on meeting the human needs of Earth’s people, for a planetary anti-GWCC effort to be able to be mounted and to succeed.

And it is because I now see the emergence of such a planetary anti-GWCC world socialism as impossible that I also grieve. That “impossibility” solely exists because of the obduracy and pettiness of a vast portion of humanity’s minds, even among minds in our communities of supposedly most politically enlightened people (according to themselves): our socialists, and safely comfortable Western recreational “leftists,” people who cannot bring themselves to support the assistance — from whatever quarter possible even NATO — to small national populations struggling desperately against murderous onslaughts from their dictatorial rulers like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and from invasive imperialistic foreign juggernauts like Vladimir Putin in Syria and in Ukraine.

If we cannot all see the moral universality of human struggles against anti-democratic oppression and against the losing of personal freedoms, of national independence, and of life itself for so many, then we will never be able to prevent our fractious selves from destroying our planet’s habitability through our competitively myopic escalation of Anthropogenic Climate Change.

So I grieve for the human pawns being sacrificed to advance tyrannical and imperial ambitions, for the many widows, orphans, widowers and bereft lovers who survive, for a while, those human pawns sacrificed on the chess boards of ambitious narcissistic potentates, and I grieve for my lost illusions about leftist communities and socialist potentialities, and I grieve for a world I think is hopelessly beyond salvation — by choice.

Believe me, I fervently wish history would prove me wrong, and soon.

And I hope Ukraine wins its defensive war, soon.

And ideology be damned: human solidarity is everything.

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