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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UK Polish Leftists on Ukraine

Photograph by Oleksii Kyrychenko, 10 March 2022. Portrait of his 12 year old daughter in Kyiv.

The beauty of childhood and the tragedy of war, and admirable resoluteness in the midst of great injustice, all in one photo. — MG,Jr.

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Alexander Pademelon Johnson, of Sydney, Australia, made the “swords” graphic and pointed me to the following internet posting by a group of Polish leftists in the UK. (https://www.facebook.com/LewakiUK/)

LewakiUK: Stop talking about the Azov battalion

Just stop it.
Stop posting about it, stop FOCUSING on it.
YEEEEEEEESSSSS! there are neo-nazis in Ukraine. There are nazis across the entire Europe, not just Eastern Europe, including the UK, yet somehow NO ONE organises “sPeCiaL MiLitArY oPeRaTioNs to denazify and demilitarise” sovereign countries.

Were you against military interventions in Iraq? Yes? Afghanistan? Yes? Vietnam? Yeah, so we thought. Were all the people of those countries pure good? No. Were their governments unproblematic? Hell, no. Yet somehow in this case you’re all “omg look at these Azov guys… Hm… looks like these Ukrainians aren’t that innocent after all, huh. I don’t know man, there’s a lot of nazis there, these Russians kinda have a point”.

You are literally repeating Putin’s justification for this war. slow clap
And it comes from the left, of all places on the political spectrum.
It’s Ukraine now, but do you know what Poles and other Eastern Europeans think when we hear or read this from you?

We instantly think: WHAT IF IT WAS US? What if it IS us, next? What would our British FRIENDS do, if it was us.

What if Russia suddenly decided that (and humour us here!), Poland was violating human rights through anti-LGBT policies, anti-abortion bills, and the not letting Afghan refugees through the Polish-Belarusan border due to racism. ALL ARE 100% TRUE. All are wrong, and we know it. We’re literally the left, as in, we were activists against these policies in Poland, before we moved to the UK, or are still involved fighting against them. We know about our countries’ issues, and we know we need to sort ourselves out, but what if SOMEONE decided they’d do it for us, they’d come in with their military and de-…whatever us?

And here you’d be, digging out those articles on the web that happen to be TRUE, but in your hands they would serve nothing more than to further the success of the aggressor’s propaganda, and the implied between the lines argument that “we got what was coming to us”. Some friends, indeed. “Comrades”.
Do you know why it’s not us though? Why it’s not Poland, Latvia, Slovakia?

Because they joined NATO. They joined NATO to have protection from Russia.
Think of countries like Latvia. Less than 2 million people, a tiny military, and a large minority Russian population, some exclusively Russian-speaking, many Putin-supporting.
Latvia has over the years introduced a number of language laws, in retaliation for the Russians dominating public life pre-1989. Would that be a good enough argument for a “military operation”? Of course it would. But it won’t happen, because they’re in fecking NATO. So your “stop NATO expansion” spiels are falling on deaf ears in Eastern Europe, for reasons you need to either accept or not, but just stop talking.

But, back to the main point:
A week or two ago half of you didn’t know about the Azov Battalion, and you didn’t care, because it’s far, somewhere among these savages from the East. Now there’s mentions of some nazis so you “did your research”, and you’re sudeenly experts on Eastern Europe, westsplaining (thank you for that term, Zosia Brom from @Freedom News) our politics and mutual conflicts to us like we’re children.
So let us tell you this – you will never understand us, and how the experiences of multiple occupations shaped our societies, and how that historical experience is present in our everyday conversations, and in our system of values.

In our part of Europe, everyone has had beef with each other, and we are raised with that knowledge about each other. There are CENTURIES of beef between Poland and Ukraine, centuries of bloody and painful history. We put it all aside on day ONE of the Russian invasion.

You can bet your bottom pound that there are leftists, antifascists, completely apolitical people, and, yes – the nazis, fighting side by side in Ukraine right now, because for as long as this war goes on, the enemy is only ONE, and we can go on hating each other later.

Your comments come from one place, and one place only – never having been under Russian/Soviet occupation. Never living in what is essentially the shadow of Mordor.
Western imperialism, NATO imperialism – those are your main enemies, and we get it. We don’t like them either, but for our nations they are the lesser evil.

Our enemy is Russian imperialism, and on this front, Eastern European countries choose to stick with NATO, because what comes with Russian imperialism is more than extraction of natural resources and economy, but something much worse.

What comes is the russification of culture, the rewriting of history, the banning of books and their authors, the banning of Western media, access to information, limiting civil rights, it’s the comeback of the secret police, the massive propaganda machine, the end of independent media, the censorship of arts, the unexplained disappearances of dissenting individuals, the state repressions, politicising curriculum and indoctrinating children from primary school, the surveillance of the population, the infiltration of universities and workplaces.

Romanians get it, Georgians get it, Lithuanians get it, Poles get it because we have all LIVED THROUGH IT, some of us more than once. That’s why Ukrainians are arming themselves with whatever they can, and if they can’t have weapons, they will carry Molotovs, scythes and pickle jars. Because they know what’s at stake.

They didn’t choose this and they don’t want to face the enemy unarmed and helpless. Not everyone wants to fight, but plenty do, regardless of experience.

We feel for the men who wanted to cross the borders with their families, but were stopped from leaving, separated from their families, and given arms. Most of them have had mandatory military training, so during war they are army reserves. This is why you avoid armed conflict at all cost…
And to those of you that think, or sometimes even tell us point-blank that Ukraine should surrender because they can’t win anyway – wow, that wasn’t even as quick as we thought. Gosh darned it, you stuck by us for almost two weeks now until you decided Ukraine was worth sacrificing for the peace of mind of Western Europe.

We’ve even heard that Ukrainians should protest like Gandhi, maybe stand in front of tanks with flowers and shit. You’ve obviously never seen what pacification of peaceful protests by an army looks like. But some of us have.

Should Ukraine surrender? NO. Not ever. Fuck, no. As lefties, we oppose imperialism, and fascism, which is now what the Russian state is serving their citizens with their new propaganda.
Speaking of which, what DO they say about the war in Russia?

So glad you asked. Apart from the decent folks that are getting arrested by their thousands for opposing the war, despite there being a punishment of up to 15 years in prison for using the words “war”, “aggression, “invasion”, etc., you can hear the rest repeating the version of events peddled by the state:
a) „Today Z is a symbol of the liberation operation for Donbass and liberating Ukraine from their nazi regime, it’s a symbol of protecting the fatherland”- Bikers from Ivanovo

b) „We know what we are fighting for. So that there is no fascism, weapons, so that the Ukrainian nation can live in peace. We will help them. The events of the last few days are reminiscent of June 1941. Almost the entire Europe under Hitler’s flag attacked us back then. Now they have gathered under the flag of NATO and pushed Ukrainian nazis on Russia. The president could not wait for missiles and bombs to start falling on us. If diplomacy didn’t help,we had to start a surgical military operation. – Nikolai Kruchkin, director of the Saransk Museum.

c) „As our boys are fulfilling their mission of denazification of Ukraine, residents of Russia, including KuZBass [notice the “Z”], are encountering unprecedented economic and moral pressure from other countries, and a wave of disinformation about our special operation. The Z symbol is an expression of support for our troops and the unity of our society. – Sergei Civiliev, governor of Kemerovo

Quotes translated from a post on Tomasz Piechal – Szkice Wschodnie (https://www.facebook.com/Tomasz-Piechal-Szkice-Wschodnie-101241165856934/) Thank you for that btw
Wonderful, innit? But you see, we’re familiar with that, too. Because that’s all we had on TV when we were parts of the Soviet Union. There was no ”independent media”. There was no media at all, apart from state media. Right now, Russia is organising “humanitarian convoys” with food to the bombed Ukrainian cities. AND they are bringing film crews. But Ukrainians don’t take the food from them, so they bring actors who pose as ‘deeply thankful’ Ukrainians for TV propaganda.

Alright… let’s have some FAQs

Q: “Why did Putin attack Ukraine?”
A: to finish what he started when he took Crimea, and incorporate the “fake nation” of Ukraine into Russia, duh. For centuries, Russia suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture, and it’s what they are planning now. Putin’s talk about Russians and Ukrainians being ”one nation”, or about Ukraine “not being a real country” is just preparing ground for russification of Ukraine. Do you know that Ukraine used to be called Malorossiya? (Little Russia)?
During Putin’s rule, he and his supporters have long peddled the idea of “ruski mir” – “Russian world” – an ideology that says Russian civilisation extends to anywhere Russians live.
Do you see where this is going?
Get it now???
If not, read this article that the Russian “news” outlet RIA Novosti published by mistake, that was supposed to run AFTER Russia’s “obvious” victory over Ukraine. They promptly removed it, but not quickly enough. It had already been screencapped by multiple readers, and translated into English by a Pakistani newspaper (https://thefrontierpost.com/the-new-world-order/)

Q: Is Ukraine a nazi country?
A: If you think a right wing party with 1.5% support makes a country neo-nazi, then boy, do I have news for you about the rest of Europe.

Q: But don’t you care about the Ukrainian nationalists and the history of nazi collaboration???
A: Don’t YOU care about the Russian Wagner Group and the Z campaign?
But yes, we do care about Ukrainian nationalism, and sadly we know it very well.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacres_of_Poles_in_Volhynia_and_Eastern_Galicia
Like we said, centuries of bloody beef between us. None of it matters now. But Ukrainian nationalists =/= Ukrainians.
And Ukraine has never been a threat to us, nor to the safety and independence of any other Eastern European countries, as opposed to You-Know-Who.

Q: Why are there so many Russians in Donbas?
A: Majority of the Russians in Donetsk and Luhansk were settled there when Ukraine was incorporated into the USSR, after Stalin-orchestrated Holodomor, the Great Famine, wiped out 4 million Ukrainians in the 1930s. Local population of Donbas was also decimated, so Russian settlers moved in. In 1991, in Ukraine’s independence referendum, most ethnic Russians in Donbas said ‘yes’ to living in free Ukraine, and for years, everything was peachy. What changed the moods? Mostly Yanukovych in 2010, but that part you should know from the news coverage.
And mind you, over 2 million ethnic Russians left Donetsk and Luhansk when separatists started taking over. What does that tell you?

Q: What do Ukrainians want?
A: They want to be left the fuck alone by Russia, and make their own choices. Those choices include joining NATO and the EU, as the second largest European country. You might dislike one or both, but it’s not you having to deal with Putin’s moods on a daily.

Q: “Isn’t fighting for the nation against leftist principles?”
A: Oh, that comment is so fucking rich coming from a country that had to fight for its independence exactly 0 times. Not aimed at you Scots, Irish, and Welsh btw. You know what we mean. fist bump
How the left wing in one of the most imperialist countries on this planet has the balls to tell us we shouldn’t resist imperialists by any means necessary is beyond us.
It’s not fighting for the nation, ya pricks. It’s fighting against being basically colonised. One would think that leftists should support it by default, kind of a low hanging fruit really… but what do we know.
Q:“Should leftists fight alongside the state army?”

A: Who the fuck cares NOW? That is such a first world problem question.
Q: “What do you say about the racism on the Polish and Ukrainian border?”

A: It’s HORRIFIC. We’re deeply ashamed, sad and angry about it. We don’t stand for any of this. Safe passage for everyone NOW! If you want to know what’s happening on the Polish-Ukrainian and the Polish-Belarusan border, please follow Grupa Granica on facebook – they are a collective project of 14 groups and orgs working with refugees in Poland, that is responding to the outrageous treatment of Afghan, Syrian and other BIPOC refugees by our government and Border Force.
Q: “Don’t you think there’s a double standard with the way how refugees from Ukraine are being treated compared to Syrians/Afghans?

A: Absolutely. We noticed it from day one, the bitter irony does not escape us. No one is asking why Ukrainians have smartphones, or nice looking clothes. People feel sorry for Ukrainian men who were forbidden from crossing the border, yet when Syrian men appeared they said they should have stayed in their country and fought. Baffling!

Q: “Was Holodomor real? Did Stalin actually starve Ukraine?”
A: Yes. Anyone who says otherwise will be banned from this page. No, it wasn’t “nazi propaganda”. Stalin’s soldiers went door to door and confiscated anything that would be edible enough to allow Ukrainians to survive the famine.
PS We take requests for informative posts. Some of us here are historians.

Q: “Should we arm Ukrainians?”
A: YES. Arm Ukraine. Arm Ukrainians. Arm the civilians who want to fight. Arm the volunteers.
UKRAINE CAN WIN THIS. But it needs support.
Even antifascist brigades are joining the Ukrainian resistance and you can’t see why because there’s some nazis there too.
You’re against volunteer legions, because defence is the job for the state.
Some of you suggested that Ukraine should surrender because they’ve been in the Soviet Union once, can’t be that bad.

And too many of you don’t understand why ordinary people are taking up arms in the first place.
Long story short, Western lefties… We’re kinda sick of you. You really eat up what you read on the Internet like Pelicans instead of talking to Eastern European comrades, of which you have plenty around you. And you don’t support us. You don’t support our unconditional right to freedom, and that is the most disappointing.

Our expectations were low, but holy fuck.
Enjoy that boot.
PS Слава Україні. смерт врогом.

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Snyder versus the Campists

When forming one’s political orientation, a consistency of human solidarity and to fundamental morality is more important than any inflexible scheme of ideological consistency, purity and rigidity.

Albert Camus urged us (in Howard Zinn’s words):

“In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”

This last quote is an abstraction by Howard Zinn of Albert Camus’s following concluding statement from his 1940s article ‘Toward Dialogue: Neither Victims nor Executioners’:

“Now I can end. What I think needs to be done at the present time is simply this: in the midst of a murderous world, we must decide to reflect on murder and choose. If we can do this, then we will divide ourselves into two groups: those who, if need be, would be willing to commit murder or become accomplices to murder, and those who would refuse to do so with every fiber of their being. Since this awful division exists, we would be making some progress, at least, if we were clear about it. Across five continents, an endless struggle between violence and preaching will rage in the years to come. And it is true that the former is a thousand times more likely to succeed than the latter. But I have always believed that if people who placed their hope in the human condition were mad, those who despaired of events were cowards. Henceforth there will be only one honorable choice: to wager everything on the belief that in the end words will prove stronger than bullets.”
— [Albert Camus, an English translation, as shown at the end in https://adamgomez.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/camus-neither-victims-nor-executioners.pdf]

Writing in the postwar France of 1955, on the theme of ‘the responsibility of the intellectuals’ as regards Stalinism, Raymond Aron wrote:

“I had had occasion… to write a number of articles directed not so much against the Communists [like the French Resistance, who shed blood in WWII to liberate people from fascist tyranny, — MG,Jr.] as against the communisants, those who do not belong to the party but whose sympathies are with the Soviet world… Seeking to explain the attitude of intellectuals, merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines, I soon came across the sacred words, Left, Revolution, Proletariat.”
— [Raymond Aron, ’The Opium of the Intellectuals,’ 1955]

In the 1966, Noam Chomsky wrote his own famous essay ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ which was about the complicity of the American intelligentsia with pro Vietnam War propaganda. Chomsky keyed his 1966 article off the late 1940s writings of Dwight Macdonald, who was “concerned with the question of war guilt”:

“He asks… to what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments? And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: to what extent are the British and American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the western democracies [in the 1940s, though pioneered by the Nazis at Guernica in 1937 and Warsaw in 1939, — MG,Jr.] and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history? To an undergraduate in 1945-1946 — to anyone whose political and moral consciousness had been formed by the horrors of the 1930s, by the war in Ethiopia, the Russian purge, the ‘China Incident,’ the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi atrocities, the Western reaction to these events and, in part, complicity in them — these questions had particular significance and poignancy.”
— [Noam Chomsky, ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ 1966]

The forerunner to Albert Camus, Dwight Macdonald, Raymond Aron and Noam Chomsky on the subject of ‘the responsibility of intellectuals’ was Julien Benda, whose 1927 book ‘La Trahison des clercs’ (The Treason of the Intellectuals or The Betrayal by the Intellectuals) “argued that European intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering, and racism.”
— [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julien_Benda]

This brings me to current heated polemics about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 21 February 2022 (or for that matter in 2014).

I have learned a new label, “campists,” for a peculiar subset of polemicists who insist that all the current war troubles (and accumulating war crimes) in Ukraine are entirely the fault of a relentless NATO (and thus U.S.) campaign of eastward expansion for the express purpose of forming an “encirclement” of Russia. What they refuse to accept about Ukraine in 2022 is this:

“[Timothy] Snyder says the focus on NATO ignores the agency of leaders in Ukraine and elsewhere who have the right to seek their own arrangements. ‘It’s very important to remember that the world isn’t just about Washington and Moscow. It’s also about other sovereign states and other peoples who can express their desires and have their own foreign policies,’ says Snyder.” — from:

Journalist Andrew Cockburn & Historian Timothy Snyder on Ukraine, Russia, NATO Expansion & Sanctions
1 March 2022
https://youtu.be/-Y8ny69uU3g

In this ‘Democracy Now’ video, Snyder has all the facts, states the reality about “Ukraine” and the international situation clearly, and has the real and useful (and morally correct) insights.

The reason the countries between Berlin and Moscow (Baltic States and the former East Bloc) have clambered to become members of NATO since 1989, despite a lack of enthusiasm by the original Anglo-American and Western European NATO members (the WWII democratic “Allies”) for such inclusion, is that those Eastern European states all too painfully remember the hell they went through under Nazi and USSR occupations, between 1933 and 1945, and their Iron Curtain experiences from 1946 to 1989-1991.

In the 1980s I learned about the “govnoed,” by reading Western-published books by dissident Soviet authors writing about the Nomenklatura: the USSR’s Communist Party power elite and patronage pyramid. The “govnoed” of the 20th century are now in an expanded category call “campists.”

I see the ~100 year genealogy of this hypocritical ideological tendency this way:

Stalinists
(Comintern aligned Communists >1924):

  • Stalinists labeled leftist anti-Stalinists like: Trotsky, Orwell, Louis Proyect(!), as “Trotskyists” —>

Communisants
(French “anti Atlanticists” like J.P.Sartre >1945):

  • Communisants labeled anti-Stalinists like: Camus, Koestler, Arendt, Aron as “Atlanticists” —>

Govnoed
(>1953):

  • “shit eaters,” the Soviet label for uncritically loyal Western Stalinists during the Soviet era after Stalin’s death —>

Tankies
(>1956) —>

  • Western Stalinists cheering Soviet tanks crushing popular revolutions, 1953, 1956, 1968, etc. —>

New Leftists/Maoists
(>1966):

  • Western only-anti-Western-imperialism leftists —>

Campists
(>1991)

  • “Campists” = Leftists who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who pretend to be “socialist” (and are faux anti-capitalist) and seem to oppose U.S. imperialism (e.g., Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, etc.), are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. Basically, campists inflexibly favor the presumably socialist and anti-capitalist “Red Camp” of international politics in any contentious situation, without regard to the factual data about it.

“The Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee has issued a statement on Ukraine that fails to adhere to basic socialist principles. [that statement is ‘DSA IC opposes US militarization and interventionism in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and calls for an end to NATO expansionism’, January 31, 2022, https://international.dsausa.org/statements/no-war-with-russia/]…

“The DSA-IC dismisses the Maidan Protest of 2014 as the ‘U.S. backed Maidan coup.’ It thus associates itself with others on the left – we call them ‘campists’ – who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who seem to oppose U.S. imperialism are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. There is a degree of condescension and even racism in the notion that movements from below of ordinary Ukrainian, Chinese, Iranian, or Nicaraguan working people are U.S. puppets.

“These people are perfectly capable of standing up for themselves and fighting back, even if they do so against overwhelming odds. Do the U.S. State Department and the CIA and NATO attempt to influence and, when they can, direct such movements? Of course. It is clear, however, that the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Maidan uprising were fundamentally expressions of the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people – fed up with the brutality of their government’s treatment of protesters – and their wish for self-determination, and not because they were being directed by Washington or by neo-Nazis. The Ukrainian people seek their independence, and we should stand with them against both the United States and NATO and against the immediate threat from Russia.”
— [above 3 paragraphs from]:

What the DSA International Committee’s Ukraine Statement Gets Wrong
By: Stephen R. Shalom, Dan La Botz, Thomas Harrison
February 9, 2022
https://newpol.org/what-the-dsa-international-committees-ukraine-statement-gets-wrong/

And this all brings me back to my fundamental point: form your political orientation on a basis of consistency in human solidarity and to fundamental morality, regardless of whatever ideological inconsistencies, impurities and pragmatic flexibility you must accept during the specific applications of your political attitudes, and in your actions, in the real world. The well-being of human beings anywhere is always more important than maintaining the rigidity of your abstract general ideas about society and its politics. Routinely reevaluate your political biases by applying indiscriminate compassion focused by intellectual rigor based on factual data.

I recommend you listen to all of Timothy Snyder’s comments in the ‘Democracy Now’ video cited above.

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STOP BEING A USEFUL IDIOT

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STOP BEING A USEFUL IDIOT

Read Timothy Snyder’s ‘BLOODLANDS’ because:

It is essential reading to understand what is going on today — everywhere but especially in Eastern Europe (and Ukraine in late February 2022). Also essential to help one overcome the tendency to become a robotic mindless “anti American imperialist” who is quite happy to “virtue signal” their ideological purity and supposedly higher moral standards (from the comfort and safety of our First World ‘homelands’) by acceding to the sacrifice of any victim population (Ukrainians, Syrians, Palestinians, Libyans, Uyghurs…) that any tin pot dictator, autocrat or “power pentagon,” who promotes himself/itself as “socialist” and a stalwart fighting against “American imperialism,” wants to conquer, crush, displace and enslave economically (and even worse).

Certainly being against imperialism — American or otherwise — is to the good, but we Western safely anti-imperialists must absolutely never accept the sacrifice of another people’s right to safe national independence, in order to signal our anti-imperialist “moral purity.” NATO has expanded into Eastern Europe precisely because Eastern Europeans vividly remember how much their nations suffered under the Russians (for about a century most recently), and they want insurance policies against such catastrophes in the future, even if the insurance company selling those policies — NATO — is itself far from perfect, or “socialist” or “enlightened.”

The essential and fundamental point is to honor and protect the right of all people to safe lives within independent states of THEIR OWN choosing.

“The lands of today’s Ukraine were the center of both Stalinist and Nazi killing policies throughout the era of mass killings. Some 3.5 million people fell victim to Stalinist killing policies between 1933 and 1938, and then another 3.5 million to German killing policies between 1941 and 1944. Perhaps three million more inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine died in combat or as an indirect consequence of the war.”
— [Timothy Snyder, ‘Bloodlands’, p404]
— The 1939 population of the Ukraine was 32,425,000 [total morality over 11 years = 31%].

The biggest neo-nazi center in Eastern Europe today is actually Putin and his band of oligarchs, who want to recreate the Tsarist/Stalinist Russian Empire. Don’t let yourself become a useful idiot to them and others like them because you want to unintelligently and reflexively preen your “leftist” anti-capitalist, anti-imperialism-by-the-U.S., and anti-NATOism ideological purity for your own self-satisfaction. Camus said to identify with the victims, not the perpetrators, and that is the best guide to your allegiances with humanity.

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27 February 2022

ON DELUSIONAL “LEFTISTS”
(not the real ones like Louis Proyect):

“I really don’t understand ‘leftists’ who dance around the fact that Putin is a dangerous kleptocratic goon. Makes no sense to me. They act like what he’s doing isn’t equivalent to other imperialistic incursions.” — [my friend E.]

They are stuck in their self-regard as “anti-imperialists”, and feel “brave” because they oppose US war-making and imperialism (as am I: opposed not brave), and so reflexively “pro-Russian” (pro-Soviet) as a mental inertia from the glory days of the Russian Revolution (1917-1922, the euphoria of John Reed’s ‘Ten Days That Shook The World’ — a great book), and for the worst of them (the most pathetic) as a lingering unthinking indoctrination to Stalinism.

“To believe that great suffering must be associated with great progress is to accept a kind of hermetic masochism: the presence of pain is a sign of some immanent or emergent good. To advance this sort of reasoning oneself is hermetic sadism: if I caused pain, it was because there was a higher purpose, known to me. Because Stalin represented the politburo which represented the central committee which represented the party which represented the working class which represented history, he had a special claim to speak for what was historically necessary. Such a claim allowed him to absolve himself of all responsibility, and to place the blame for his failings upon others.”
— [Snyder, ‘BLOODLANDS’, p401]

The “most pathetic” include the lunkheads who gained instantaneous engineering-physics PhD’s watching the flaming NYC Twin Towers collapse on TV (11 September 2001) and within milliseconds knew that G.W.Bush and Dick Cheney had tiptoed up and down staircases in the World Trade Center buildings the weekend before, planting cakes of C4 timed to go off (forget the planes) and let them go on to conquer the world. The “most pathetic” also include the equally turgid-minded pseudo leftists who, in the comfort of their own safe First World consumerist-internet lives, swell with righteous pride by thrilling to the rush of their inner Stalin, as above, in accepting the pain of remote anonymous “others” because there is a higher purpose known to them as vanguards of the working class, which represents history, so these cadres have a special claim (within their own minds) “to speak for what was historically necessary” and absolve themselves of all responsibility, placing the blame for the obvious failings of their delusions upon others.

In pointing all this out I am sincerely trying to be a good friend (like when calling a cab at 1 AM to prevent a buddy from driving home drunk from the bar you both favor). But, I am forthright about stating what I see as true, because otherwise I would not be a good friend. Since that independence is important to me, I accept becoming friendless, and being “unfriended.” Substance over superficiality, always.

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The Power Pentagon Redux

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The Power Pentagon Redux

P. Cockburn (lead foreign correspondent at Counter Punch) says Putin into Donbas is like Saddam into Kuwait (https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/02/23/putins-advance-into-ukraine-compares-with-saddam-husseins-invasion-of-kuwait-a-disaster-for-russia/). I think it more like Hitler into the Rhineland in 1936, both as re-occupation or “recovery” of “homeland” territory, and for coal, minerals and industry (I spell it out in ’The Power Pentagon’, below).

I expect the EU and NATO Allies will do as much for Ukraine (regarding Russia) as their predecessors did for Poland in 1939-1945. I’m sure Putin thinks the same. Stalin starved Ukrainians to death (~3M) between 1932-1933. Hitler, between 1941-1944, shot (mainly) and gassed (also) Ukrainian Jews (mainly), many civilians (in reprisals, or just to clear territory, often herded onto buildings set on fire with escapees machine gunned, see the movie ‘Come and See’), antifascist partisans (shot on capture), and starved Soviet war prisoners to death, for a total of at least 1.6M (battle field deaths of soldiers not included).

So neither the German Nazis nor the Communist Russians are remembered too fondly as “liberators” (the Nazis in 1941, from the Russians/NKVD; the Red Army in 1943-1945, from the Nazi SS and Order Police and Ukrainian fascist partisans). Only for Jews were the Soviets better than the Nazi’s in the Ukraine, but still far from “good” (especially if they were suspected by the NKVD of being Polish intelligentsia or having any “political” past; and some of those Ukrainian Jews of 1945+ had somehow survived both the Holodomor as well as the Holocaust-by-bullets, but there weren’t too many Jews left in Ukraine).

Since German Fascism and militarism seem to have been stamped out long ago, and Stalin/USSR ruled Ukraine from !945 to 1991, and few Ukrainian Jews remained after 1945, I suspect most Ukrainians (Orthodox Christians) “remember” their last century of history with a jaundiced eye to the USSR and now Putin’s Russia, and the most extreme of such attitudes is held by the “Ukrainian Nazis” (a legacy of the antisemitic Ukrainian collaborationists with Nazis 1941-1945), but I can’t imagine theirs is a majority bias in today’s Ukraine, who I’m guessing would have liked to be part of NATO as “insurance” against Russia, but would be happy to settle into a stance like that of Finland or Switzerland: independent and yet “safe”.

At the moment I am in the last pages of Timothy Snyder’s 2010 book, ‘Bloodlands, Europe Between Hitler and Stalin’. The history of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine between 1932 and 1945 form a very large part of this book. It was in these three countries that the overlap in mass killings by the Nazis and Stalin was most intense and massive and prolonged; between 1939 and 1941 it was cooperative (Molotov-Ribbentrop Poland), from 1941 to 1945 it was antagonistic in separate zones of control that shifted back and forth (1941-1943 Nazi advance from MB Line in Poland to Stalingrad, 1943-1945 Red Army and NKVD advance from Stalingrad-Moscow line to Berlin).

Prior to 1939, the Soviets had perpetrated the Holodomor starvation (forced collectivization of agriculture, 1932-1933) that was mostly focused in the Ukraine, and then the Great Terror purges of 1937-1938 in the USSR, which also had many Ukrainian victims.

The Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) were also in the center of these “bloodlands” (like Poland, Belarus and Ukraine), and suffered relatively equally, but total numbers of victims for them were smaller because they had smaller populations.

People in those countries today are quite aware of this history, and it is not difficult to understand their politics and foreign relations as regards the West (Poland’s allies: England, France, and later the U.S., did NOT send troops into Poland and the “bloodlands” during 1939-1945), and NATO (whose nations have pledged NOT to send troops into the Ukraine), and as regards Russia. The Melian Debate (in Thucydides) remains our template of international relations and “solidarity.”

Putin, as a child of the USSR who was well placed to cash in when the game changed in 1991 (and making money and becoming a capitalist oligarch was the rage, which it still is for some), has nevertheless retained the 1930s Stalinist memory of fear of encirclement and invasion; in the 1930s by Germany, Poland and Japan, now updated by Putin to NATO and the U.S. In both cases a fear of the Soviet/Russian sphere of influence and state and economic system collapsing.

The modern “Russian” fear of encirclement and invasion has some validity in that the US-led NATO along with the EU have been moving “in” and absorbing former EAST BLOC states, which “Russia” had sought control of since the 1930s (and had from 1945 to 1989-1991) and those former satellites, borderlands, and buffer zone states have little reason to retain warm memories of the years “behind the Iron Curtain,” so might not be entirely benign neighbors so close to Moscow, as NATO states; the “buffer” would be entirely gone.

I wrote the ’The Power Pentagon’ on 22 February 2022, before the shooting stated in Ukraine itself (beyond Donbas), and I still think the analysis of Putin’s motives is accurate and useful. But, I was also aiming at other global concerns.

The Power Pentagon

Yesterday (21 February 2022), Vladimir Putin, the Russian Premier, recognized the separatist Donbas regions of Ukraine as independent states, and ordered Russian troops into them to forestall a Ukrainian invasion to reassert its sovereignty there.

Why? Putin’s action is a defensive threat display to resist the steady encroachment by the US-dominated NATO political alliance into, and diminution of, Russia’s western sphere of influence in the external borderlands and historically sought-after buffer zones against German invasions (and now “German” equates to Western European and Anglo-American); and it is a reaction driven by the fear of ultimate inaccessibility to the Baltic Sea for Russian naval forces, in the north, and the Azov Sea and Black Sea (and from there to the Mediterranean and the Levant) in the south.

The Donbas is comprised of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine and is the very easternmost tip of that country, lying just above the Azov Sea, which sea is to the northeast of the Crimean Peninsula that juts south into the Black Sea. The Donbas has a rich coal basin that has supported the development of heavy industry such as coal mining and metallurgy since the 19th century (the word Donbas is a portmanteau formed from Donets Basin, an abbreviation of Donets Coal Basin).

Crimea was taken from the Ottoman Empire in 1783 and annexed to the Russian Empire, later being attached to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic during the existence of the U.S.S.R (1917-1991), and continuing as a region of independent Ukraine from 1991 to 2014, until Russia occupied and then annexed Crimea during the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014.

Both the Donbas and Crimea have large ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking populations, and those people favor annexation with the Russian state. Donbas has 57% ethnic Ukrainian and 38% ethnic Russian people, but with ~72% of them identifying as Russian-speaking. The proportion of native Russian-speakers is higher than ethnic Russians in Donbas because some ethnic Ukrainians and other nationalities also indicate Russian as their mother tongue. Crimea had 77% Russian native speakers according to a 2001 Ukrainian census, and 84% Russian native speakers according to a 2014 Russian census.

The Donbas and Crimea were major targets of sought-for permanent conquest by Hitler’s invasion of Russia (launched on 22 June 1941) precisely for their fossil fuel mineral wealth and heavy industrial infrastructure, and their maritime avenues of accessibility southwest to the Mediterranean and the Levant, and land avenues of accessibility east and southeast to the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf.

What I see in Putin’s action of 21 February is another example of the geo-politics (or imperialism) that I call the Power Pentagon. A Power Pentagon is the following closed cycle of ego-driven ambition for personal power:

fossil fuel —> economic power —> military power —> political power —> war power —> fossil fuel.

The continuing existence of Power Pentagons as the foundation of our international relations is the reason that we are not making, nor will make, the socio-economic alterations to our civilization needed to effectively slow the advance of Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC), and to arrive at a stable balance between the workings of our industrialized civilization with the cycles of Nature.

Fossil fuels enable combustion-based energy-intensive industrialization that creates economic power (“prosperity,” convenience, things, “wealth”) that in turn can build up military technology and military forces, whose threat potential creates political power and thus foreign political influence, which in its sharpest form is formidable war-making capability that can be used to acquire more energy resources for its own cyclic enlargement as well as to deny access to fossil fuel and mineral resources to rival Power Pentagons, which are thus diminished and dominated.

This is the story of the rise and fall of empires old and new, and of the inflation and bursting collapse of the egos of potentates and ruling classes.

Because GWCC is a planetary complex of geo-physical phenomena it will require a globally cooperative, integrated and permanently sustained response from humanity, if it is actually to be slowed and eventually stabilized. The obvious image for this desired future state of human affairs would be World Eco-Socialism: a world socialism powered with “green” energy (infrastructure not emitting greenhouse gases, toxic wastes, and pollutants), and with both poverty and extreme wealth made history.

For any such green utopian reformulation of human civilization to occur, it will be necessary for us humans to remove the limitations we place on our own species’s societal development by remaining mired in the fractious international politics of the clashes of Power Pentagons — “the Great Game” — which has been the case since long before the days of Lawrence of Arabia.

I have no idea how the grand consensus needed for joining together globally to make that civilizational advancement can be achieved contemporaneously in the minds of “all” people worldwide. But without it I see no effective action being taken in response to GWCC, and hence a steady decay of planetary habitability and environmental purity, of international political stability, and of personal quality of life.

A first tiny step in the direction of that grand consensus would be not seeing yourself as a partisan for “our good” Power Pentagon at war with “their bad” ones, however you define “us” and “them.” All these cycles of ambition for personal power and for exclusionary economic domination are bad because they are exploitative political machinations that multiply and destructively divide human society while unavoidably merging into that one vast thermodynamic catastrophe we call Global Warming Climate Change.

It is easy to see the problem as I have stated it here to be so infinitely multi-faceted with human concerns and conflicts and obduracy, that it is insurmountable and our human species is “doomed.” But that is no excuse for stopping any of the myriad of individual efforts people are making for improving human society. Calling things by their proper names — our tiny first step — may lead to some justifiable pessimism, but more importantly it anchors the mind in realistic critical thinking, which is essential for any worthwhile human endeavor to proceed with the best chance of success.

Today it is the Donbas, perhaps next time it will be the South China Sea, or back again to the Middle East, or regions of Africa or South America, but in any case all our conflicts are rooted in our contentious joint tenancy of this single beautiful planet. We have to overcome always forgetting about the long-term essential that unites us, by continuously being distracted by the serial immediate that divides us. Willful unforced unity as our best selves, however impossible and ridiculously utopian that idea may seem, is the world paradigm we need to ensure our enduring and fulfilling survival.

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Aesop’s Puerto Rico

MG,Jr. in Puerto Rico in August 1967.

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Aesop’s Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, conquered and taken during the Spanish-American War has been part of the USA as a Commonwealth since 1898; prior to that is was a Spanish colony for four centuries. The people of Puerto Rico were given U.S. citizenship in early 1917, during the Wilson Administration, a few months before the U.S. entered World War I on the side of the Allies: Britain and France. So, men from Puerto Rico could be drafted for that war, as they were in subsequent US wars, like WWII and the Vietnam War.

The people of Puerto Rico have elected representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, but those Puertorriqueño representatives cannot vote in nor introduce legislative bills to the U.S. Congress; they can only observe and lobby. Puerto Rico is neither a state of the U.S. (like New York, and Hawaii), nor an independent country (like Cuba). A 2017 referendum in Puerto Rico, hoping to show a popular majority in favor of either statehood or independence, showed an overwhelming preference for statehood (97.18%) but only among the 23% of the electorate who actually voted. Those opposed to statehood for a variety of reasons (whether preferring some form of Free Association, or the status quo, or — least popular — pure independence) boycotted the referendum.

The Republicans in the U.S. proper are against the idea of letting Puerto Rico become a U.S. State, because that would introduce two new senators (to the U.S. Senate) and several new representatives (to the U.S. House of Representatives), all fully enfranchised and who would certainly all be Democrats. Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote for the U.S. President and Vice President, only for their local representatives and governor within the island itself, and for the observer representatives sent to Washington, D.C. People from Puerto Rico can vote in US presidential elections and for active members of the US Congress only if they move to the mainland (or Alaska or Hawaii) and establish residence there.

I, among others, think that the Republicans (and many Democrats) want Puertorriqueños to emigrate as economic refugees seeking jobs on the mainland so as to depopulate the island of its ethnic population, and make it easier for real estate speculators and developers (people like Trump) to move in and buy up land cheap, and then make big profits on hotel and vacation property developments. Because the people of Puerto Rico lack direct representation in the U.S. Government, they are dependent on the charity and goodwill of the US President, Senators and Congressional Representatives of the fifty US States to address their island-wide needs, such as hurricane disaster aid, and island-government financial security. It has been evident that there is not much of such charity and goodwill available to Puerto Rico from its US master.

In early 2017, the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis posed serious problems for the island government. The outstanding bond debt had climbed to $70 billion at a time with 12.4% unemployment. The debt had been increasing during a decade-long recession. This was the second major financial crisis to affect the island after the Great Depression when the U.S. government, in 1935, provided relief efforts through the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. On May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico filed the debt restructuring petition which was made under Title III of PROMESA. The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) is a 2016 US federal law that established an oversight board, a process for restructuring debt, and expedited procedures for approving critical infrastructure projects in order to combat the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis. Through PROMESA, the US Congress established an unelected Fiscal Control Board (FCB) to oversee the debt restructuring. A draconian austerity program had been imposed on the island, and by early August 2017 the debt was $72 billion with a 45% poverty rate. In late September 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, causing devastating damage. The island’s electrical grid was largely destroyed, with repairs expected to take months to complete, provoking the largest power outage in American history. Recovery efforts were slow, and over 200,000 residents had moved to the mainland State of Florida alone by late November 2017. The island population was 3.7 million in 2010, and 3.2 million in 2018. [This last paragraph is taken from wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico, and edited with additions by me.]

Among several major pro-independence Puertorriqueños was the great singer (and disobedient WWII US soldier) Daniel Santos [Porque Soy Boricua, https://youtu.be/tfZXaAnwNdk]. Independence would be better for Puerto Rico, even if that island-nation were poor, because at least it could then direct its own affairs, like Cuba. The con of Commonwealth is that being totally dependent on the paternalism of the U.S.A., the promise of “protection” and “prosperity” handed down from Uncle Sam can be (and has been) withheld, leaving Puertorriqueños poor (except for those connected to the high-end capitalist classes), unprotected (as with Hurricane Maria and from vulture capitalists) and politically powerless (they can’t go on their own to get loans and foreign aid on the world market).

The sad state of Puerto Rico is an example of Aesop’s fable of The Wolf And The Dog. A gaunt Wolf almost dead with hunger happened to meet a well-fed Dog out for his daily scamper. “Cousin Wolf,” said the Dog, “why suffer with such an uncertain life when you can work regularly under the protection of my patron for certain meals, as I do.” “I would have no objections,” replied the Wolf, “show me how.” So, they set off together to the master’s estate. On the way, the Wolf noticed the worn and ruffled fur around the Dog’s neck, and asked about it. “Oh, that’s nothing,” said the Dog, “it’s just from the collar master puts on me to keep me chained up every night. It chafes a bit, but you soon get used to it.” “Oh, is that so,” said the Wolf, “well then, goodbye to you. Better to starve free than be a fat slave.”

The tragedy for Puerto Rico is that it is both collared and chained, and starved.

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52 State Flag (proposed); if add Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

Christianity, from Socialist to Imperialist

My son asked: “I don’t understand the term ‘conservative christian’ because Jesus was a socialist.” My reply follows.

Christianity (the religion of the 1st century reform Jews that myth and history have coalesced into the single character of “Jesus Christ”) was founded as an aspiration for personal salvation from earthly slavery, that is to say liberation from Roman Imperial rule and occupation: it is a slave’s religion. Since Rome was omnipotent on Earth, so far as the people of the Mediterranean were concerned at the time, the “liberation” and “salvation” from their earthly enslavement and oppression had to be visualized as on a metaphysical plane: heaven. Christianity borrowed its structure of a “sky god” religion from the Greeks (God the Father, from Zeus) and the Egyptians (Jesus Christ resurrected, from Osiris), its practical morality from Buddhism (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), and its Christian “charity” from Buddhist “compassion.”

The reason Christianity spread so quickly was because so many people were experiencing the same sorts of oppression and had the same sort of aspiration, and the organization of the Roman Empire allowed for the rapid (for the time) transmission of ideas over a vast geographical expanse. Just as today, “middle class” Romans, that is to say people who were not actual slaves and who might have occupations (jobs) within the Roman bureaucracy and economy, could feel insecure in their employment (like in our gig economy) and trapped economically (like our living paycheck-to-paycheck, and afraid to leave a dissatisfying job for fear of being unable to replace its income, hence trapped in specific kinds of work and particular locations). Also, most of Rome’s citizens and subjects had no control over how they would be taxed (and taxes kept increasing, and failure to pay could cause immediate confiscation of a family’s property and material goods, as well as males sold into labor slavery and daughters sold into sex slavery).

So, the aspiration for liberation from the existing system extended up from the chattel slaves through to the ranks of the proletariat (poor landless freemen), on into the plebeian class (commoners with some economic substance – which for some was extensive – but no aristocratic family roots, though some plebes did gain high position and honors, even to the point of becoming Caesars). It all depended on how insecure, oppressed and hopeless a person felt.

Those on top, the patricians (like America’s dismal aristocratic families: the Morgans, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Mellons, Harrimans, and maybe the Kennedys), and the highly successful plebes (like our even more dismal ‘self-made’ successes such as the Kennedys, Heinzs, Kochs, Trumps, Waltons, and on down from the Clintons), would all be most resistant to adopting the slave religion of Christianity (in Roman times, today it would be socialism and communism) in place of their fealty to the state religion they enjoyed being the supreme beneficiaries of (in Roman times the elevation of Caesar to a god, and in our time the Milton Friedman-neocon religion of “free market” corporate-over-people capitalism).

As the integrity of the Roman Empire decayed (more wars to fight off German invasions), and as a result its prosperity diminished and its oppression and taxation of the lower classes and foreign subjects deepened, there was a corresponding increase in the popularity of Christianity, the religion of personal salvation. By the time of the Caesar Constantine, so many of the Romans were Christians that even Constantine converted and the majority Christianized Romans replaced their Greek-derived religion (Jupiter being Zeus, etc.) with Christianity as the state religion, while keeping the hierarchical political and social structure of the empire, that is to say, they didn’t reform the state to be “socialist” and primarily democratic. Instead, Christianity was practiced as a hierarchical religion suitable to a hierarchical and imperialist state.

This Christian “divine right of kings” state religion is what swept through Europe from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains from the 4th century into early medieval times and became the foundation of all European cultures up until at least the 19th century (the Communist Manifesto appeared in 1848). The religion of “Jesus Christ” may have been the religion of the slaves and “socialized” (as opposed to competitive) people of the underclasses of the 1st Century (AD or CE), but it became the state religion of the feudal and very hierarchical European Kingdoms that arose after the 4th Century.

Much of the disconnect between the original “Sermon on the Mount” aspect of Christian “charity,” “compassion” and even “socialism,” and its too often application (since the 4th Century) as exclusionary social, intolerance (even bigoted), and tax-avoidance clubs can be traced to this history. There is a fundamental conflict between a slave religion based on eliminating misery by equalizing wealth (i.e., a popular upwelling of “compassion,” “charity,” and “socialism”), and an imperial state religion based on a hierarchy of rights and privileges, which descend in diminishing proportions from an all-powerful sky-god.

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” It is impossible to remain a rich man (or woman) and practice 1st Century Christianity. It is so easy to practice imperial state Christianity and be rapaciously capitalist and militarist, and self-righteously claim to be a “good person” because of the original 1st Century “peace,” “love,” and “charity” form of Christianity.

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