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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I’m Done with “Anti-imperialists”

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I’m Done with “Anti-imperialists”

I never thought that such a large proportion of people who call themselves “leftists,” and “socialists,” and “anti-imperialists” could be so inhumanly ideological, where their good opinions of themselves as morally superior beings could be automatically justified by the wars and mass murders inflicted on civilian populations by neo-fascist dictators and other imperialist regimes designated as opponents of “US hegemony” also “NATO expansionism,” by the ignorant magical thinking of these self-satisfied ideologues. I admit to being totally flabbergasted by this realization, made vivid in all the blathering broadcast about the war in Ukraine. What an incredibly inhuman bottom line: those civilians being oppressed, tortured, disappeared, gassed and bombarded, “deserve it,” because they stand in the way of the retention and expansion of power by those “opponents of US hegemony,” who are “defending themselves” (from US hegemony and NATO, of course) by doing all that oppressing, torturing, disappearing of “enemy” prisoners, gas bombing, artillery and aerial bombing, and military invasions of victimized civilian populations, and that “US hegemony” is THE ONLY and FUNDAMENTAL problem deserving of any opprobrium in the world. WOW!, talk about being brainwashed! Such ideologues are really “mental imperialists,” recreational leftists heartlessly consuming inconvenient foreign civilian populations so as to maintain the “exceptionalism” of their overweening self-regard: it is the self-righteousness of utter fools, and craven cowards. My pal and Vietnam War veteran, Stan, had told me: “There are some people you would want in your foxhole, and some you don’t.” If survival ever got that desperate for me, I would be sure not to have any of these ideological pseudo-“anti-imperialist” fools in my foxhole. But at least now I know much better where I stand with regard to everyone.

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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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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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Libya, then Syria, now Ukraine

“The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s. It began in response to corruption and economic stagnation and was first started in Tunisia. From Tunisia, the protests then spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring)

The First Libyan Civil War erupted on 15 February 2011 as a revolutionary insurrection against the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Protests against various injustices had occurred since August 2009, but in Benghazi on 15 February the security forces fired at the unarmed crowd, and this sparked what became known as the 17 February Revolution. Over the forty-two years of Muammar Gaddafi’s murderous reign many people had built up deep resentments against him, and these deep wounds propelled the determination of the revolutionary forces until the ending of the regime with capture and killing of Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. On 19 March 2011 UN-directed NATO forces intervened militarily, at the most perilous moment of the revolt, when Gaddafi’s motorized columns and artillery were about to overwhelm the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to implement the goal he had uttered on Libyan State Television: “those who do not love me do not deserve to live.”

There were many heated arguments that year “on the left” about the Libyan Civil War, and all their shades have reappeared eleven years later, in 2022, in the many heated arguments about the Russian War in Ukraine. The concerns behind the arguments are all as they were then:

— Isolationist: we should not spill our blood and spend our treasure to intervene in a foreign war, which would explode beyond our imaginations if we entered it, and lead to a catastrophic world war,

— Anti-imperialists, type #1: Gaddafi’s regime is an important bulwark against U.S. and NATO imperialism in Africa, and the protests against the government there were undoubtedly instigated by CIA covert operations, and are being used as a pretext for a US-NATO imperialistic invasion disguised as a “humanitarian intervention,”

— R2P interventionist: Gaddafi is a proven mass murderer, and stopping him from committing a “mass atrocity crime” in Benghazi, as defined in the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine developed in the U.N. after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, is fully justified, and the means for doing so exist in the form of NATO military forces,

— Anti-imperialists, type #2: People who would revolt against such a bulwark against Western (U.S.) imperialism, and who has done so much to modernize his country and elevated the status of women, and liberally fund the Pan-African movement, do not deserve any sympathy, they are terrorists, criminals, Al Qaeda and foreign militants, so however Gaddafi suppresses them to defend his regime is acceptable.

As it was with the arguments for coming or not to the aid of the Libyan Revolution, those same arguments have continued to this day about coming or not to the aid of the civil society of the crushed Syrian Revolution, a civil society being relentlessly attacked, bombarded, and gassed by the Al-Assad regime with the assistance of Iran, and since 2015 with massive air-power military assistance by the Putin regime of Russia.

And now all those same arguments are applied to the war in Ukraine:

— Isolationists: if “we” go in it will explode into World War III (with nuclear weapons for sure);

— Anti-imperialists, type #1 (“campists”): The present Ukrainian government brought the Russian invasion of February 2022 onto themselves by seeking to allow NATO to expand eastward by making Ukraine a member and thus threatening the security of the Russian state, and by having been the people who in 2014 acceded to CIA and US State Department (Victoria Nuland’s) instigation to rise up against the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime and depose it in a “coup,” so the present war in Ukraine is entirely the fault of U.S. imperialism, NATO expansionism, and Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against encirclement by NATO;

— R2P Interventionists: “We” have a responsibility to aid the self-defense of civilian populations invaded by murderous dictators bent on conquest, as we failed to do so many times in the past (e.g., Ethiopia 1935, Spain 1936, Czechoslovakia 1938, Poland 1939, Finland 1940, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, and many others), and if we evade that responsibility and let Ukraine fall to Putin’s imperialism then our World Order will have collapsed to “the law of the jungle” where no lesser state can ever be assured it is safe from conquest by a stronger military power, because the concept of international mutual assistance will have been abandoned;

— Anti-imperialists, type #2 (“tankies”): Ukraine continues to harbor masses of neo-nazi militias that clashed with ethnic Russian militias in the Donbass and Crimea, and that prevent the reintegration of Ukraine into the Russian state that many ethnic Russians want and as was historically the case, Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against this Ukrainian nazi threat.

In 2011 I declared myself of the R2P persuasion regarding Libya, and I have remained of that persuasion since. Nothing is perfect or pure in world affairs and especially in the chaos of war, so any R2P intervention would necessarily have some faults and failures in its execution, but pursuing it intelligently would be the morally right thing to do.

In that year of 2011, Louis Proyect and I converged on this point, both being motivated by the same moral conviction. Louis then spent the last ten years of his life writing volumes in favor of the Libyan Revolution, the Syrian Revolution, the Syrian volunteer emergency workers and medics organized as the White Helmets, and against the Assad regime’s bombardments of civilian neighborhoods, hospitals, White Helmets, and journalists (e.g., Marie Colvin), and its chemical warfare against the Syrian people, which after 2014 was carried out with massive assistance by Russian air-power; and Louis wrote to expose the corruption, imperialism, homophobia and basically fascistic (or Stalinist without the socialism, if you prefer) character of the Putin oligarchy in Russia.

Louis Proyect (26 January 1945 – 25 August 2021, https://louisproyect.org) did not live long enough to see today’s war in Ukraine, but I can so easily imagine how he would be writing about it in deep detail, based on his last articles on Ukraine in 2018 (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/29/ukraine-behind-the-curtain/, https://louisproyect.org/2018/06/29/two-new-books-on-ukraine/) and 2019 (https://louisproyect.org/2019/01/11/gauging-the-power-of-ukraines-neo-nazis/).

All the above prompted me to look back at my two 2011 articles on the Libyan Revolution, which were aimed at countering the comfortable Western “anti-imperialist” leftists opposed to assisting the Libyan Revolution fighting against Gaddafi: the “campists” and the “tankies.” Louis sent me a one word e-mail about my second article: “Bravo!” Given that this was from Louis, it is the greatest compliment I ever received for any of my political writings. Those two article now follow, and I leave it to you to mentally transpose them from “Libya” (2011) to “Syria” (2011-2022) to “Ukraine” (2022), to arrive at my responses to the objections by today’s isolationists, Type 1 left anti-imperialists and Type 2 left anti-imperialists to my R2P sympathies regarding Ukraine.

‘Rules Of Rebellion’ is an exercise in irony that was swallowed at face value (astonishing me), while ‘Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom’ is a direct appeal to conscience. Both articles were first drafted in February-March 2011, before 19 March (the start of the NATO intervention), and were finally published in April and May 2011 in the only “leftist” journal that would even consider them, and only after great resistance and hesitancy by that journal’s editor at the time.

Rules Of Rebellion

To the oppressed people of the world: if you want freedom, you will have to achieve it yourself. If you need help, you don’t deserve it. When you fully understand this, you will realize it is the most enlightened political principle that should govern international relations. This is humanitarian nonintervention.

If you live under a repressive government, a dictatorship, a kingship, or any form of unrepresentative and arbitrary authority, and you would like to overthrow it and punish your oppressors, and establish a government that is widely representative, that safeguards your political freedom and provides easy access to meaningful participation, then be aware that you must do this entirely on your own. There is no possibility of help from foreigners.

The reason for this is that your freedom is inconvenient to the rest of the world. The world has made its accommodations with your present regime, and any disruption of those arrangements will inconvenience the plans of your international neighbors, by disrupting their expectations. It does not matter whether your oppressive government is seen as “good” or “bad” by other states, it is simply that they are accustomed to their present protocols of interactions, and any interruption of business-as-usual costs money and time, and creates anxiety about the future.

So, if you intend to overthrow your oppressive regime you must do so quickly to minimize the period of dislocation of your foreign relations. Clearly, a quick and complete turn-over of government can only occur if your rebellion has the overwhelming support of all sectors of your society with any amount of credible power or wealth. Accumulating and consolidating overwhelming revolutionary power, stealthily, is a problem you must solve entirely on your own if you wish to successfully overthrow your tyrants, and be accepted internationally as a legitimate successor government.

Some populations believe that their oppression is so onerous that they can no longer remain passive, and so they revolt without having made the necessary preparations for a quick and decisive take-over. If they are unfortunate, their tyrants quickly isolate and eliminate them, extinguishing the revolt. If they are somewhat fortunate, they are able to carry on as guerrilla movements that shelter underground and in the hinterlands. Such guerrilla movements can be assured that the regimes they oppose will use all the powers of the state to eradicate them, and in all likelihood other nations will support their suppression as terrorist movements because their activities will inevitably cause anxiety and even collateral damage to the business-as-usual of foreign nations. The club of nations does not look favorably on unruly aspirant movements, especially if they are armed and have demonstrated violent behavior. You are not evaluated on the basis of your cause, but on the basis of your effect.

Should an unprepared population break its discipline of submission with an open revolt that draws the heavy wrath of its regime down on them, and they seek rescue by foreign intervention, then they have lost any possibility of ever being seen as having political legitimacy. They will henceforth be taken as dupes and stooges, or agents and proxies of the foreign power that aids them; and if they actually succeed at forming a successor government it would always be seen as a client state of the intervening power. The idea of a population rising up solely on the basis of its own desire for political freedom, accepting material assistance from whoever delivers it during their time of crisis, and then after a successful revolution cordially thanking and dismissing its foreign helpers, and forming a fully independent and representative national government, is taken as impossible by general agreement. Regardless of what you may think of your own particular revolution, its factual circumstances cannot be accepted as a counterargument or disproof of the impossibility of assisted untainted revolution (the AURI principle).

The AURI principle immediately identifies legitimate revolutions from attempts to disguise, as “humanitarian interventions,” imperialist plots for undermining and secretly controlling foreign states. The application is simple: if foreigners are involved, they are invaders, and the degree of their imperialist intent is easily assessed by their position in the hierarchy of world power, relative to that of the host country. So, for example, one African nation sending its troops as “peacekeepers” into another would be doing so to seek greater regional power; while the United States sending any part of its military and espionage complex into an African country under any pretext would be blatant all-out imperialism.

Any revolutions that want to retain the respect of the world will guide themselves by the AURI principle; they will overcome their regimes entirely on their own (and thus gain the right to characterize the regimes they overthrow as tyrannical, dictatorial and oppressive, for future history). Any premature revolution that includes foreign interveners is instantly unmasked by the AURI principle, and the world need not concern itself with the individuals involved in it, because they are necessarily agents of imperialism and de facto traitors. If, for whatever reason, an immature population were to have a tantrum and unwisely revolt without long and careful planning and preparation, and then find itself hard pressed by its vengeful regime, it would be well advised to quickly recognize the world view on these matters and refrain from seeking any foreign help. So long as these failed revolutionaries retain their untainted status, they can be assured that their survivors will not be disqualified from consideration as legitimate politicians in any equally untainted successor government of their country. Also, any losing revolutions that remain untainted will have performed a valuable service to humanity: they will have successfully resisted imperialism in their corner of the globe during their lifetimes.

This last point is important because the single most important political goal in the world is to prevent the capitalist imperialism spearheaded by the United States and Western Europe, enabled by the United Nations, enforced by the NATO military complex, and acceded to by the industrialized nations. Preventing the reoccurrence of “humanitarian interventions” and “color revolutions,” which undermine the national independence of target states and brings them under the shadow control of the imperial center, is too important to allow any local popular disenchantment with the nature of its government to interfere with. Thus, any population that decides, out of its own irritation, that its rulers should be deposed must realize that more important things are at stake.

First, they have to determine if their revolution would weaken a stalwart opponent of imperialism, and distract him (the usual dictator gender) from current efforts in their country and region to thwart “Washington consensus” imperialism. If their regime is a champion of anti-imperialism, then it is their humanitarian duty to set aside their selfish motives to revolt. They should be consoled for the occasional heavy-handedness with which they may be ruled, by the pride they will have of sharing solidarity with anti-imperialists worldwide. What would be the point of overthrowing an anti-imperialist leader, in the name of gaining greater political freedom, perhaps even the right to a meaningful vote, if it weakens the barrier their former leader had maintained against imperialism’s subjugating influences in their nation?

So, in order to retain their legitimacy in the eyes of the world they must not try to deny the AURI principle, and in addition, to gain the respect and comradeship of the enlightened progressive communities of the world they must also demonstrate that all their revolutionary decisions are guided by an acute awareness of the need to maximize the anti-imperialist effect of their efforts. A revolution that fails to recognize the primacy of the anti-imperialist outcome, by either undermining an authoritarian anti-imperialist stalwart or failing to replace him with an untainted government of equal or greater anti-imperialist vigor, within a matter of days, does not deserve the support and respect of the enlightened and progressive world community. Such a revolution would be a destructive self-centered tantrum that contradicts the world political prime directive.

Therefore, if you intend to have a revolution because you want relief from oppression, to gain political freedom and to introduce democracy into your country, you would be wise to learn what is required to make your freedom convenient to the world’s contented spectators.

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Originally appeared as:

Rules Of Rebellion
6 April 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/rules-of-rebellion/

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Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom

“You canʼt separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X (1925-1965)

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,…” — Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

“In politics the choice is never between good and evil but between the preferable and the detestable.” — Raymond Aron (1905-1983)

Freedom from dictatorship is a human right. A global recognition of this right in modern times is Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.


Dictatorship is the captivity of a people’s political rights, and is thus an analog of slavery, which is the captivity of their personal freedom. Assisting popular rebellions against dictatorship is always a defense of human rights. Dictatorships, being inherently unjustifiable, can never claim self-defense in their efforts to cling to power; the only act they can justify is self dissolution.

Dictators hold unwilling supporters through intimidation, and willing supporters through promises of material gain and social elevation. Supporters of a dictatorship facing a popular uprising can never claim equal consideration in world opinion to the rebels opposing them, because such supporters are complicit in violating human rights by helping impose a dictatorship.

Doing what is right is not always convenient, and tolerating what is wrong is often temporally advantageous. So, despite the intrinsic illegitimacy of dictatorships, democratic nations may accept normal relations with certain of them because it is convenient politically and profitable commercially. Maintaining a foreign policy of such amoral practicality is never an honorable argument against assisting a foreign rebellion against dictatorship that has won public sympathy. Let us celebrate the few times international actions are taken because they are the humanly decent thing to do.

Later, our propagandists will easily recall the imperfections of motive and execution by our governments, and that data will then fuel the competition to define and exploit the historical record of the events. Though annoying, this is of minor importance compared to the immediate and most worthy goal: defending human lives and human rights.

The likelihood in late March of 2011 that a significant loss of life would be inflicted by Muammar Gaddafi’s jet bombers, artillery, armored troops and security forces in Benghazi was too real a prospect to ignore without then becoming complicit in the outcome, by omission. Gaddafi had vowed to “bury” the rebels, and we can be sure that after a Gaddafi victory a thorough purge of Libyan society would have occurred to ensure no embers of dissent remained to ignite another popular outburst of lèse majesté. Clearly, without outside assistance — minimally, a large infusion of heavier weapons — the lightly armed militias defending the western approaches to Benghazi would have been rolled back, and the anti-Gaddafi revolt crushed.

Opposition to intervention on behalf of the Libyan rebellion has been voiced from three perspectives:

Isolationism: it is an unnecessary national burden in possible blood and certainly treasure, with a risk of escalating into a political military quagmire;

Pan Africanism: it would undermine Pan Africanism if Muammar Gaddafi were to lose control of Libya’s wealth (which funds mercenaries from Sahelian countries, and foreign Black political groups) and political power (to compel adherence to Pan African ideals by the largely Berber and Arab native Libyan population);

Anti-imperialism: NATO action in Libya is just an excuse to mount a Washington-consensus imperialist assault on an oil-rich nation that for over forty years has opposed such imperialism.

Beyond doubt, there is some truth to each of these. Isolationism is convenient selfishness and very often wise policy. In this case it is also a vote in favor of Muammar Gaddafi. The other two objections arise from doctrinal thinking on world affairs. Despite their merits, no worthy international goals can justify the sacrifice of a nation’s freedom to a dictatorship. One has to wonder about the coldness of certain opponents of support for the Libyan revolt, who are “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,” as Raymond Aron wrote in 1955 about the French intelligentsia’s bewitchment by Stalinism.

Every individual has their particular formative experiences, which set their adult “natural reactions” to subsequent rhetorical arguments. Let me relate some of mine, to invite your imagination to “feel” my point of view.

I recall visiting my grandparents in the city of Havana during a summer vacation in 1959. The colors, warmth, sounds and odors of Cuba were all rich, pungent and sensuous. Equally impressive to a boy growing up in New York City was the flagrant poverty of many Cuban people: adults with naked rented children huddled at street intersections begging from the passing tourists.

Fulgencio Batista was Cuba’s dictator, whose regime Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. characterized this way: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the regime’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice … is an open invitation to revolution.” Bohemia magazine — the equivalent in Cuba of Life magazine in the U.S. at that time — would print pictures of revolutionaries shot dead during gunfights with Batista’s police, lying rumpled in pools of blood on the street. I only heard the adults talk Cuban politics back in New York, when I was taken to the upper west side of Manhattan, our old barrio, for haircuts at the Cuban barbershop below the elevated train along Broadway, and in the brownstone apartments of relatives and family friends during Sunday visits. Everybody was anxious, everybody wanted a free Cuba, everybody was thinking of Fidel.

Then, on the first of January 1959, Batista fled the island and Castro’s victorious army rolled into an ecstatically jubilant Havana on the 8th. We returned again in June 1960 for a long summer vacation. Even in the Cubana de Aviación four-engine turboprop one could sense the uplift, the exhilaration of the Cuban Revolution. But the full impact hit me when I exited the airplane and walked into the lush aromatic heat of a tropical country whose people were rapt with joy. The beggar “families” were gone and barbudos — the bearded ones — were everywhere. The barbudos were revolutionaries in pristine khakis, with gunbelts holstering highly polished and uniquely detailed pistols, some silver-colored, some gold-colored, some gun-metal blue, some with very long barrels, some with artistically engraved handles. Only the beards were shaggy, all other items from boot soles to cap crests were neat, shiny and crisp. At first I was a little nervous when a barbudo would climb onto a streetcar or bus and sit near me. But I soon got used to sitting next to gold-plated long-barrel Lugers, gleaming mirror-finish silvery Colt 45s, and robust Smith & Wesson 44 caliber six-shot revolvers. Sidearms were definitely the display items of identity.

During that summer of 1960, we travelled all over the island and saw many remnants of revolutionary struggle, one being a bullet-pocked hospital in the countryside, once the scene of a battle, now happily back in service. I even met Fidel at Isla de Pinos (now Isla de la Juventud). However materially poor some Cubans could be, especially campesinos, peasants in the hinterlands, they were all just so happy: believing themselves free, life despite its burdens was now a joy. Every person, every place, every moment exuded the same sense of uplift. I was immersed in a national sense of freedom, and it soaked into my psyche and bones. This experience permanently magnetized my political compass, so that regardless of verbal arguments and logical constructs in later years, my compass always points my sympathies toward freedom for any people.

Today, I see the people of Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen as similar to the Cubans I lived among when at my grandparents’ house in Batista’s Cuba. They want freedom from their dictators, and I am incapable of being unsympathetic to their desires. Perhaps if I studied their cultures and histories, I’d find good reasons to overcome my emotional impulses in their favor. I might learn that “countries don’t have friends, they have interests.” If so, I would want to make sure that I did not compromise anything I had an interest in by thoughtless support of foreign revolts.

However, I find it impossible to conceive of the individuals I see and hear on the streets of North Africa and the Middle East as being that remote from my experience, especially the “wireless” younger generation. [1] They look like my kids. Do I really prefer to make logical arguments in favor of Muammar Gaddafi because it accords with my interest to oppose Western imperialism disguised as “humanitarian intervention”? I do not. Can I really put aside any consideration of the specificity of this particular revolution at this particular time (so inconveniently timed for us), and see a greater good in opposing any help to the anti-Gaddafi rebels because their freedom is not as important in the overall scheme of things as the effort to maintain strict nonintervention by Western powers? I cannot. I am unable to forget the people.

So let me ask you, is it possible to have a bias for freedom, an opposition to dictatorship anywhere, and also oppose the capitalist-imperialist consensus that dominates U.S. and European foreign policymaking? Is it possible to support popular revolutions against tyrants and dictators — no matter how doctrinally appealing certain of them might be for some of us — even to the point of arming popular revolts so they can credibly match the firepower of their oppressors? In short, can anti-imperialists elevate freedom to a guiding principle?

For me, solidarity with basic positive human aspirations throughout the globe supersedes strict adherence to any political doctrine.

Those who agree believe it is possible to identify situations worthy of support, where a people are visibly demonstrating their desire to throw off tyranny and govern themselves democratically, and their dictatorial regime is demonstrating its utter lack of legitimacy. In popular fiction, the character of Rick Blane, played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 movie Casablanca, could identify and support such revolutions. The French prefect of police in the film accuses Rick Blane of being a “sentimentalist,” because “In 1935 you ran guns to Ethiopia. In 1936, you fought in Spain on the Loyalist side.” Blane replies sardonically “And got well paid for it on both occasions.” The prefect rests his case with “The winning side would have paid you much better.” [2]

So, can we be sentimentalists? Was the French fleet at Yorktown in 1781 under the command of the Comte de Grasse entirely a matter of interests and not friends, or was there some sentimentalism involved? I leave it to you to decide if this French intervention was a good thing or a failure for history. Can the Cuban-led defeat of the South African Defense Forces at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988 during the Angolan Civil War, with the liberation of Namibia and the initiation of the subsequent fall of apartheid in South Africa, be seriously regretted? The 2289 Cubans who died during Cuba’s intervention in southwest Africa, and the 450,000 Cuban soldiers and development workers who spent time in this effort, were probably sentimentalists even if many were too young to remember Havana in 1959.

The French, British and Americans, under the guise of NATO, have chosen to intervene in Libya, initially to halt Gaddafi’s assault on Benghazi in early April. The motive for intervening was some admixture of “sentimentalism” and “humanitarian imperialism,” but the exact proportions of each is a matter of heated debate. The pace of the war against Gaddafi will be set by the level and consistency of military assistance to the anti-Gaddafi population.

If the Libyan revolt leads to a stable democratic government, then the cause of freedom will have been very well served, especially if the post-Gaddafi government is clearly independent. If the NATO nations are unable to accept the possibility of an independent post-Gaddafi Libyan government, they won’t supply the revolutionaries with sufficient arms for a quick and decisive victory. Instead, they will dribble in just enough resources to keep Gaddafi confined to his corner while they try micromanaging the gestation of the eventual post-Gaddafi government so that it emerges as a client regime. This would be like Stalin’s policy in Spain during 1936 to 1939. This attitude was captured succinctly in the film Lawrence Of Arabia, where General Allenby is asked if he intends to keep his earlier promise to T.E. Lawrence, to arm the Arab troops with artillery in addition to small arms, so their revolt against Turkish rule can advance significantly: “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent.” But, Allenby knowing what London wants, replies: “Then I can’t give them artillery, can I?” [3]

Sentimentalists hope the Libyan revolutionaries get the “artillery” they need, and enjoy their version of 1959 Cuban euphoria, however inconvenient their freedom turns out to be, later, for the humanitarian imperialists. Sentimentalists prefer to have friends rather than just interests, and you can’t tolerate others being oppressed or enslaved if you want them as friends.

We should not let our opposition to the misdeeds, mistakes and misapplications of our governments throttle our willingness to take advantage of spontaneous events that can lead to the overthrow of tyrants, and the release of political freedom for more people.

  1. Emad Balnour (“We are clearing our country from Muammar and his gang.”), https://youtu.be/5kSs7uQ15wA, at 0:25-0:51.
  2. Casablanca 04 (“sentimentalist”), https://youtu.be/D_nzR-GPLEo, at 1:48-2:18.
  3. Lawrence of Arabia, “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent,” https://youtu.be/sppPQogIhxs

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Originally appeared as:

Libya 2011: The Human Right To Political Freedom
3 May 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/

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Bernie versus the Leftist Halo-Polishers and Clinton Vanity Queens

These comments were written after reading articles (on Counterpunch and Facebook, 26-30 March 2016) by sanctimonious leftist “anti-imperialists” (Paul Street and Eric Draister, in particular), complaining about Bernie Sanders, who they see as not being a “real” socialist, and of ‘certainly’ being another pro-US military imperialist and pro-drone War On Terror adherent.

These writers find the many enthusiasts for Bernie Sanders to be naive and simplistic for being distracted from organizing “real” and “authentic” anti-war and social justice movements, by the excitement and drama of the Bernie Sanders campaign and by their participation in American electoral politics in general. Presumably, those yet-to-occur authentic socialist anti-war movements would recognize the authors of these articles as essential mentors and leaders of those virtual movements of higher vision for the greater good.

On the other hand, maybe these snobbish blowhards, enamored with the loftiness of their visions, the superiority of their acumen, and the goodness of their secular holiness, missed what is obvious to millions: the Bernie Sanders campaign is the authentic mass movement in America for social justice, and against war and imperialism.

Empire abroad has its domestic reflection in colonialism at home. Democratic socialism at home has it projection abroad as a more diplomatic and internationalist-collaborative foreign policy. No political leader, including Bernie Sanders, is “perfect.” The issue here is to recognize reality, and to take advantage of a historic opportunity in the here-and-now of our imperfect country in an imperfect world, to make some tangible changes in the near future for the better, for the real lives of real people (millions, perhaps billions of them). “In a land without sheep, a goat is a prized possession.”

Nitpicking the color scheme and appointments of a lifeboat plucking you out of the ocean after a shipwreck, or of a firetruck arriving to hose down your house that has burst into flames, or of Bernie Sanders’ misalignments with your personal vision of a worthier “foreign policy” despite the current reality of US foreign policy (of a Clinton-Kissinger and Obama-Reagan variety) is definitely the symptom of a self-righteous snobbish elitist sense of entitlement: “I am holier than thou (y’all simple-minded clods) because I am the most refined gourmand of utopian political philosophies, and I polish my halo and pedestal thus (as I shall school you in my erudite sermon of complaint).”

This nation has too damn many spoiled brat privileged white boys and girls, from the over-educated under-achieving, self-important anti-imperialist internet leftists who can’t bring themselves to vote for an “imperialist” Bernie Sanders, and who don’t have any concept of what a minimum wage raised to $15 an hour means to tens of millions, or of what a revolution that would represent in this country. Also, we have too many self-absorbed high-earning white female “feminists,” who want to safeguard their “right to choose” but don’t particularly care if their daycare nannies earn less than $15 an hour (minimum wage in South Carolina is $7.75/hr., unlicensed daycare workers get “whatever”) or gain socialized healthcare. They have to vote for Hillary Clinton, regardless of the consequences, because Hillary is just like them: vapid and entitled.

Realistic revolutionaries take the favorable opportunities that history may surprisingly offer them at a propitious moment — with gratitude (easily felt if you have a family or cultural memory of oppression) — and then subsequently try to eliminate the blemishes of these imperfect gifts of historical quantum jumps of liberation, after the revolution is established.

People are people, they are imperfect, they will never be perfectly agreeable, so politics never ends. Peace is an endless continuing process, it is not a static finality; there is no perfect politics, no perfect state, no utopian terminus to actual human societies.

Get real, and stop complaining that reality always fails to match your ideal — it never will. “In politics, the choice is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.” In the reality of America in 2016, Bernie Sanders is by far the preferable. Don’t waste my time with your vain navel-gazing and halo-polishing.