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Drinking the Kool-Aid: Intoxicated on delusion

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
The placard held by this Russian woman participating in a peace march in Moscow, says "We are Russia - not Putin."
The placard held by this Russian woman participating in a peace march in Moscow, says "We are Russia - not Putin."

In response to my article Elections and Politics, which in turn, was a reply to Antoni Wysocki's How I became an Anti-Voting Fanatic, Wysocki has, in turn, penned When One Man's Neo-Nazi is another's "National Conservative."

There's little in it in regard to the principle issue I wrote about -- elections, economics, and Canadian and Nova Scotian politics -- but a great deal about Ukraine, an entirely different subject. Thus, in brief:

• Monolithic state capitalism is what communism became. That is the historical record, not some notion conjectured by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, or Mao. I'm not sure what conjoining "libertarian" to "communism would mean (or why one would want to do so), but Wysocki is, of course, free to do as he pleases. It's a perplexing conjugation given (for instance) Ayn Rand, the idol of many libertarians was a vehement anti-communist (see: What's wrong with Rand: Objection to Objectivism), but Wysocki is free to self-identify as he likes.

• Governance: see the Wikipedia entry for a good summary.

• Piketty: Wysocki writes: " I haven't read the man's book and … I have no interest in doing so." This says everything that needs to be said.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century contains precisely the economic (and hence political) arsenal that progressives have been seeking for the last two centuries in terms of harnessing economic forces to serve socially progressive goals. It is delivered with great clarity, and incontrovertibly empirically established. If anyone is interested in economics, politics, or social justice (or all three) it is rapidly becoming the foundational touchstone on which to base analyses, policies, and actions.

Ukraine

Finally: as for Ukraine: if one is looking for a stunning illustration of the success of insurrectional politics (that Wysocki claims to admire) there has hardly been a better one in my lifetime (and I'm now treading into my seventh decade) than the recent Euromaidan Movement in Ukraine, which Wysocki utterly misunderstands. As I wrote in my article, "over a million people rose up across the length and breadth of their country, rejecting corruption and kleptocracy, and wanting a civil society which authentically reflects their desires for material, moral and spiritual dignity." It's a stunning demonstration of how the will, persistence, and indefatigable energy of people can triumph over a repressive state apparatus.

Wysocki's understanding of Eastern Europe, and in particular of Russia, Ukraine, and the politics there is sophomoric, amateur, superficial, based on flimsy, incorrect, and discredited evidence and unsupported assertions. I've dealt with all of his misconceptions in articles such as Crisis in Ukraine: Disinformation and useful idiots and Ukrainian aspirations: Material, moral, and spiritual dignity. Let me quote one section from the latter:

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In My Maidan Myrna Kostash writes:

"I see a pattern … that has been repeated as Canadian progressives have weighed in on the meaning of Euromaidan, winter 2013-2014. The same skepticism about the spontaneity of such courageous self-organization, the same implication of dark European- or U.S.-based conspiracies behind it, the same solicitude for Russian imperial interests, the same uncritical transmission of anti-Ukrainian propaganda, the same lack of solidarity with the desire and will of masses of people from all parts of Ukraine for a life of material, moral and spiritual dignity."

It continues to be perplexing why some Canadians on the left have veered so far to the right in regard to the Ukrainian situation. How is it possible to miss the genuinely progressive, populist character of the Euromaidan movement? Over a million people rising up in defiance of a corrupt regime -- and succeeding! Desiring an open, transparent, accountable, civil society -- and embarking on that journey! The naked aggression of Russia's annexation of Crimea. The heavy and incontrovertible hand of Russia in the destabilization of eastern Ukraine. The brute, thuggish, reactionary character of governments installed there. The criminals, mercenaries, and gangsters who lead these self-declared and unrecognized puppet governments. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they cling to flimsy and fictitious straws.

Now that the vastly overblown concerns about the Ukrainian government being "fascist" (a word bandied about with carefree abandon) have been conclusively dispelled by the June elections [the right-wing nationalist party Svoboda (Freedom) received only 1.16 per cent of votes cast; the even more extreme Pravij Sektor (Right Sektor) garnered 0.70 per cent: see Blundering in Ukraine: Putin's strategic debacle for more information] one would expect that the scales might at last fall from their eyes.

At the same time they appear to show no concern whatever for avowed Russian fascists like as Alexander Dugin, such a far-right extremist that he quit the neo-Nazi National Bolshevik party which he helped found (whose "intellectual oasis" is the Waffen-SS), to form the even more extreme National Bolshevik Front! And Dugin is not cast into the political wilderness in contemporary Russia -- he serves as an advisor to Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the State Duma, the Russian Parliament. Or of the über-communist and neo-Stalinist Sergei Kurginyan with his paramilitary Kurginyan Army and Essence of Time movement determined to create a USSR 2.0. The double standards and asymmetry of concern are astonishing.

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• In particular, as for the Nuland-Pyatt conversation referred to by Wysocki, an excellent account of this is provided by PunditFact. In brief:

Since 1992, the government has spent about $5.1 billion to support democracy-building programs in Ukraine, Thompson said, with money flowing mostly from the Department of State via U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the departments of Defense, Energy, Agriculture and others. The United States does this with hundreds of other countries.

About $2.4 billion went to programs promoting peace and security, which could include military assistance, border security, human trafficking issues, international narcotics abatement and law enforcement interdiction, Thompson said. More money went to categories with the objectives of "governing justly and democratically" ($800 million), "investing in people" ($400 million), economic growth ($1.1 billion), and humanitarian assistance ($300 million).

"…the money in question was spent over more than 20 years. Yanukovych was elected in 2010. So any connection between the protests and the $5 billion is inaccurate.

Contrary to claims, the United States did not spend $5 billion to incite the rebellion in Ukraine.

That’s a distorted understanding of remarks given by a State Department official. She was referring to money spent on democracy-building programs in Ukraine since it broke off from the Soviet Union in 1991. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

• As for War and Peace, Wysocki should familiarize himself with Faces of war and peace on Moscow streets, my collaborative article with Russian photojournalist Ilya Varlamov, for an understanding of who is for war and who is for peace in Moscow --  and elsewhere. He should also read Myrna Kostash's excellent article, My Maidan.

• As for fascist and anti-Semitic red-herrings waved about with abandon by Wysocki, let me simply quote one passage from my article Blundering in Ukraine: Putin's strategic debacle in response:

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The ultra-right political forces (much pilloried in the Russian propaganda press as the "fascists" that had taken over Ukraine) garnered miniscule levels of support. Oleh Tyahnybok, running for the right-wing nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party, received only 1.16 per cent of votes cast; Dmytro Yarosh of the even more extreme Pravij Sektor (Right Sektor) garnered 0.70 per cent; both of these were far less than extremist right-wing parties received in the 2014 European Parliament elections (i.e., in France the right-wing National Front received 24.9 percent of the vote; in Greece the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party received 9.4 per cent; in Denmark the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party took 26.6 per cent; in Austria the far-right Freedom Party received 19.7 per cent support, while in Hungary the neo-fascist Jobbnik party took 14.7 per cent.) By contrast, Vadim Rabinovich, president of the Ukrainian Jewish Parliament and running as an independent, garnered 2.25 per cent of the vote -- more than both right wing parties combined. Said Rabinovich:

"I want to destroy the myth about an anti-Semitic Ukraine, which is spreading around the world. Probably I'm the most fortunate candidate. Today unification is needed, and I'm a unifying candidate. I have no maniacal thirst for power, I just want to help the country".

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• Finally, in regard to nuclear war, I'm certain that I agree with Wysocki (and most other rational people on the planet) that any use of nuclear weapons would be a cataclysm. In this regard it would be useful for Wysocki to familiarize himself with the Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances signed in 1994. In it Ukraine gave all of its nuclear weapons (at that time, the third largest stockpile on the planet) to Russia (the only, and extraordinary example in the world of a state completely liquidating its nuclear arsenal!) in return for an ironclad agreement from Russia to respect Ukraine's (and Belarus and Kazakhstan) political independence and territorial integrity. The terms of this memorandum have been flagrantly, violated by Russia through its annexation of Crimea (see my article Ukraine on the brink for a comprehensive contemporary and historical discussion of this topic).

If anyone is rattling the sabre with regard to a nuclear conflagration, it is clearly Vladimir Putin.

Note: those interested in this thread may wish to read Ideology versus reason: How abandoning evidence leads to absurdity and Useful idiots: Addled by Ant-Americanism which continue the discussion.


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1707 words

Commentaires

Neither/Nor

It seems to me that there are a lot of assumptions in this piece premised on the notion that one must always be "either/or": Either pro-Kiev or pro-Russian, either a "libertarian" in the vein of Ayn Rand or a communist who fetishes state power, either pro-Maidan or against democratic upsurge, etc.
Of course, the reality is that none of these simple dichotomies apply to Antoni's thinking, nor that of most libertarian communists. It's quite clear, in fact, that while Antoni has some significant practical familiarity with social democracy, you, Mr. Majka, haven't even made the most basic attempts to understand Antoni's political perspective. Like, seriously, could you have at least peeped at the wikipedia page? It's not as though anyone expects you to read the significant body of work which has called itself or significantly influenced libertarian communism: simply acknowledging its existence would likely be sufficient.
Moving on, I don't see where it is that Antoni has anywhere indicated disbelief that the Maidan included a significant popular component expressing dissatisfaction with rule by a cliques of capitalist oligarchs. What he said, quite explicitly, was that there was significant participation by fascists in the demonstrations, that they played an important leadership role, and that the ultimate consequence was the installation of another clique of oligarchs in the halls of power in Kiev (or, rather, some of the same oligarchs singing a more pro-Western tune). You hardly address any of these assertions, let alone refute them, by cheerleading American investment in "governing justly and democratically" - doublespeak so transparent that one has to question your intentions. Nothing for a humanitarian intervention like white phosphorus, right?
Of course, to suggest that one could have authentic concern for the self-determination of Eastern Ukraine, or the continued upsurge against oligarchy is to be a Russian stooge! After all, when the chips are down, we have to fall in line behind the best democracy money can buy, because the only alternative is totalitarianism?
Perhaps having lived through the cold war, Mr. Majka, you've have internalized some of its ideology? This whole bit seems eerily reminiscent of period pieces railing against "duped" fifth-columns just waiting to hand Canada over to the Kremlin. In retrospect, it's quite clear that such characterizations of the left were absurd right-wing opportunism: Similar claims are every bit as absurd now.

Truth & Democracy or Lies & Hypocrisy?

People like Nestor Makhno (who I wrote about in Ukraine on the Brink, indeed I included his photo, which you will see when you read the article) and Pyotr Kropotkin (indeed, I used to live near Kropotkinskaya, the metro stop in Moscow named in his honour, and I studied his work at length), considered themselves anarchists, not libertarian communists (the latter is a recent confection). That said, this thread if focused on Ukraine, not different schools of Russian political philosophy.

Thus:

• There was no significant participation of fascists in the Euromaidan movement. There was a small (but highly visible) contingent of (ultra right-wing) Pravij Sektor (Right Sektor) supporters. And so …? This doesn't affect the complexion of the Euromaidan Movement. Furthermore, in the last election in Ukraine, Dmytro Yarosh, the head of Right Sektor, garnered 0.70 per cent of the vote, much less than Vadim Rabinovich of the Ukrainian Jewish Parliament who received the support of 2.25 per cent of the electorate.

Given that (for example) the ultra right-wing National Front received 24.9 per cent of the vote in France in the last EU elections, does that make France a "fascist" country? Not in my books. Hence, why the selective attention to the participation of a miniscule extremist group in the Euromaidan movement? Is the intention to indiscriminately tar the Euromaidan movement with the "fascist" brush? Again, why the selective focus?

• Furthermore, the last round of democratic elections in Ukraine did not "install another clique of oligarchs in Kyiv" they expressed the democratic will of the Ukrainian people in electing Petro Poroshenko by an absolute majority of 54.7 per cent of the vote, winning in in every electoral district of the country save one. He received more support than all sixteen other candidates running against him combined.

Here's the thing about democracy – it expresses the political will of the people, in this case, the Ukrainian people. Not my will, or yours, or Wysocki's, or Vladimir Putin's or Barak Obama's -- Ukrainians. If you respect democracy, and I do, you respect the process and it's results, whether you agree with the outcome or not. Ukrainians made the decision, giving Poroshenko a windfall of support to lead their nation, and they will then judge whether he discharges this responsibility capably or not. Ukrainians.

• I'm not "cheerleading" Americans. The "governing justly and democratically" terminology is that of Nicole Thompson of the US State Department from the Pundifacts article that I quoted. In fact, in my view, as someone who respects democracy, is that this precisely what the United States (and Canada, and Great Britain, and France, and other nations in the developed world) ought to be doing -- investing in democratic development and just governance. If you've ever worked in the developing world, or the ex-Soviet union -- and I have -- you will know that it's a long, slow, and sometimes painful process to develop democratic norms in nations that have only known autocracy or dictatorships for much of their history. They need help. We should be putting are money where our mouth is if we believe in democracy -- and I do.

• As for being pro-Kyiv or pro-Russian: remember, this is Ukraine we are discussing: A sovereign country with it's own democratically elected government expressing the self-determination of its people. The central focus must be on what Ukrainian people desire in terms of their self-destiny; not what Russians, Americans, Canadians, or anyone else wishes for them.

• The self-determination of Eastern Ukraine? In the provinces of Lukhansk and Donetsk 83 per cent of the population voted for and supported the Ukrainian declaration of independence. As I pointed out in Blundering in Ukraine: Putin's strategic debacle, the results of recent polling conducted by Rating show that in eastern regions of the country such as Kharkiv, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhiia (which have substantial populations of Russian speakers) Putin's popularity has fallen from 62 per cent in October 2013, to 19 percent in April 2014. Similarly in southern regions of the country such as Odessa, Mykolayiv and Kherson, where there are also significant numbers of Russian speakers, his popularity has fallen from 57 to 14 per cent during the same time. In the Donbas it has only increased slightly from 63 to 66 per cent. 

However, polling conducted by IRI shows that even in the Donbas, this popularity does not translate into support for Russian annexation or an independent state. In eastern Ukraine including the Donbas (where the largest concentration of Russian-speakers live), only 5 per cent of the population supports Russian annexation or an independent state. Forty per cent support the current Ukrainian state, and 35 per cent a unitary state with a federal structure giving greater autonomy for local regions (i.e., 75 per cent support a unified Ukraine; only 5 percent support division).

You may wish to purchase "the best democracy money can buy" -- what Ukrainians, in East and West -- wish to do, is express democracy -- theirs!

There's no white phosphorus hotter than lies, propaganda, dissembling, and disinformation for justifying an armed invasion, right? It worked in Crimea, might as well try it again, right? A violation of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, the Helsinki Accords, and the United Nations Charter on the territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers? No problem! Such international agreements are meant to be shredded, right? This is where sloppy thinking, a contempt for democracy, and a disdain for international law gets you -- precisely to totalitarianism!

Have any doubts? Ask Adolf Hitler who annexed the Sudetenland, ostensibly to protect the rights of German speakers in this Czech province. Or who invaded Poland and began World War II saying, "Germans in Poland are persecuted with a bloody terror and are driven from their homes. The series of border violations, which are unbearable to a great power, prove that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German frontier."

Perhaps you'd like to reflect on precisely how Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine differ from Hitler's actions? Just substitute "Russian speaking" for "German speaking" and the formulations are identical! ;~> Of course, there were apologists for Hitler in 1939 as well.

Having lived through the Cold War, and my parents through World War II (my father fought against Hitler in the Polish underground, and was almost killed, on more than one occasion) I have learned many things -- from my experience, and his: amongst them respect for democracy, evidence, reason, facts, people, and truth. Also an intolerance of lies, propaganda, disinformation, invasions, annexations, war, death, and dictators. That's what I've internalized.

This isn't a rhetorical game to be played for the benefit armchair analysts; people are dying every day on the frontiers of Ukraine for the sake of democracy. We owe them the highest standards of respect for evidence, fact, reason and the truth. 

Those with an "authentic

Those with an "authentic concern for the self-determination of Eastern Ukraine" will no doubt be interested in my most recent article for Rabble.ca on Ukraine, Dunces on the Don: A Russian farce. This is Part VIII in a series on the Ukrainian crisis.

Eating Nuland's freedom cookies

"It's a stunning demonstration of how the will, persistence, and indefatigable energy of people can triumph over a repressive state apparatus."

Personally,  I thought it was a stunning demonstration of how  the will, persistence and inexhaustible resources of a malignant superpower engaged in one of its many regime change operations can triumph and install a repressive client state on a perceived enemy's border.  But leaving aside the question of how much influence the US had in bringing the current government to power - and Christopher Majka seems to have a touching belief, though one unsupported by any historical precedent i am aware of, that the US was indeed spending its billions on genuine democracy promotion - I find it interesting that in his articles he downplays or ignores one of the most salient features of this international crisis:  the real threat to Russia posed by the expansion of a hostile US-led military alliance right up to its borders in violation of solemn diplomatic pledges to Gorbachev that NATO would not expand eastwards if Russia allowed the reunification of Germany.  Since that pledge, NATO has already absorbed ten countries east of Germany, with Georgia, Ukraine, Sweden and Finland on the list to become new members.  The US has also been expanding its network of military bases in the region, including recent ones in Romania and Bulgaria and a planned base in Albania. Other reckless and belligerent actions include the positioning missile defense systems - first strike weapons - in Turkey, Romania, and Poland and deploying Aegis destroyers to the Black Sea.

Unless assessments of Russian actions in the eastern Ukraine following the US-backed uprising to depose Yanukovich takes into account these menacing and existential threats by the world's leading rogue state, and that same state's recent behaviour towards other nations in the axis of disobedience (e.g. Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Gaza) they don't have any relevance.  Given Russia's legitimate fears and its interests in blocking the expansion of NATO into Crimea, it is hard to overstate the great restraint of Putin's actions, particularly when compared to what the US would do in comparable circumstances.  Imagine for instance what the US reaction would be if Russia spent, via some bogus front for its foreign intelligence agency, billions on "democracy promotion" in Canada to replace a government it didn't like with a Kremlin-friendly one; installed multiple military bases all over the Canadian and Mexican borders; placed first-strike BMD missile systems in both countries; brought destroyers into Lake Ontario; and provided diplomatic cover to the new Moscow-oriented government as it mercilessly bombed civilians living in Canada's border regions to stamp out an anti-Ottawa insurgency, killing thousands, causing a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing into the northern US.  it doesn't take much imagination to realize that, had such lunatic provocations been made on the US borders instead of their real-world analogues on Russia's,  we wouldn't be around to discuss any of this and the depopulated earth would be in deep nuclear winter.  

Considered side by side with the depredations of the US and assorted clients all over the globe, Putin's violation of international law in the bloodless annexation of Crimea - a part of Russia from the 18th century until 1954 - is barely a footnote.  Not only was he protecting interests and addressing security concerns far greater and more legitimate than any that have impelled the US to invade, occupy, destroy, and impoverish so many peoples and nations, he was also acting in accordance with the wishes of the people of Crimea. If the illicit referendum had been held under ideal and lawful conditions, there is little doubt the results would have been exactly the same.         

But there is a more fundamental point to be made in regards to this strange obsession with the crimes of Putin:  We aren't responsible for what the Russian leader does; we are responsible for policies we have some ability to influence, i.e. those of our own governments, and before trying to take the mote from Putin's eye, we would do better to try and get the redwood tree out of our own.  We, the citizens of the "free world", despite every imaginable advantage of resources and political freedoms, have abjectly failed to bring our rogue governments into some minimal conformity with international law, a failure that has led directly to multiple global crises, including the one in Ukraine.  Our failure, not Putin's has allowed the grotesque anachronism and global menace that is NATO to metastasize all over Eastern Europe. Our failures, not Putin's killed two million Iraqis since 1990; turned Libya into a failed state and hotbed of international terrorism;  allowed Syria, Gaza, and the Congo (millions dead) to be practically destroyed, Haiti's democracy to be overthrown, Serbia to be invaded and bombed, Honduras' government to be deposed.  And this is a tiny fraction of the death, destruction and misery our multiple failures to restrain our elected leaders have brought to the world.  Against such a background, denouncing Putin for annexing Crimea, especially without simultaneously denouncing the western polices that precipitated the crisis, is monumental hypocrisy: it is straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.    

So I have a couple of questions for Mr Majka, particularly with regards to such analogies as this:

Have any doubts? Ask Adolf Hitler who annexed the Sudetenland, ostensibly to protect the rights of German speakers in this Czech province. Or who invaded Poland and began World War II saying, "Germans in Poland are persecuted with a bloody terror and are driven from their homes. The series of border violations, which are unbearable to a great power, prove that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German frontier."

Perhaps you'd like to reflect on precisely how Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine differ from Hitler's actions? Just substitute "Russian speaking" for "German speaking" and the formulations are identical! Of course, there were apologists for Hitler in 1939 as well.

In response to the west's far graver crimes - our crimes, since Canada was directly or indirectly involved or in support of many of them - have you ever compared any western leaders to Hitler?  Or even any western-backed clients? Have you ever referred to the western media and liberal intellectuals - who provide the propaganda framework in which western acts of aggression are spun as humanitarian interventions - as Obama's or Bush's or Clinton's "useful idiots"?  Incidentally the Hitler rhetoric is not only an insult to the Russian people, twenty-five million of whom died defeating Hitler and many of whom support Putin, but is deeply ironic considering the neo-Nazi infestation of the movement and government you are celebrating.  It is also redolent of cold war-era, anti-Russian hysteria and red-baiting, whipped up by the western doctrinal system for years to justify some of the 20th century's worst crimes against humanity. In the current era it is the imperialist's favourite meme for demonizing the US enemy du jour: Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad....Hitlers one and all!  Each reader can decide for themselves for what purpose the dreaded Fuher is absurdly invoked here.    

 

Useful Idiots: Addled by Anti-Americanism

Those following this thread may wish to read my article, Useful Idiots: Addled by Anti-Americanism which responds to Mr. Kind's comments.

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