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Sunday, 30 August 2015

Don’t link to CounterPunch

If you are a progressive then the chances are you will have seen a link to the online magazine Counterpunch - or even posted one yourself.

In a staggering expose Elise Hendrick may make you think twice as she shows that white supremacist and racist authors far outweigh the odd Jeremy Scahill or Noam Chomsky piece. She convincing argues that the website's history demonstrates that it is a far right 'entry' project. She says:
In writing for, and sharing articles published on, CP, Leftists are unwittingly helping to promote the agenda of the far right.

In addition to the authors relied on by CP for its left cred, ‘America’s best political newsletter’ also regularly publishes ‘independent investigative journalism’ by a wide variety of white supremacists, including Paul Craig Roberts, editor of the white nationalist website VDare, Ron Paul (who poses for photo ops with neo-Nazis and warns of ‘race war’), and Alison Weir, holocaust denier Israel Shamir, and that perennial saboteur of the Palestinian solidarity movement, Gilad Atzmon, author of the racist The Wandering Who.

Although there are some who have expressed concern on this problematic mix, when I have raised this issue in discussions with others in left activist circles, I have often found that it is dismissed as a triviality. In these discussions, the white supremacist contingent tends to be attributed to an unwillingness to bow to ‘political correctness’ or a mere desire to ‘piss off liberals’, and generally believed to be an insignificant deviation from an otherwise clear leftist editorial line, the sort of thing only an ‘ideological purist’ could get excited about.

My own research into the editorial practices at CounterPunch shows otherwise. Not only have white supremacist authors long been a fixture at CP; their ideology is shared by members of the editorial collective. All in all, it is entirely reasonable to say that the formation of a Querfront (an alliance between the far right and the left) is a longstanding project of the newsletter, consistently endorsed by the decisions taken by CP editors and their own stated positions. In the following, I will examine the relationship between the CP editors and the racist Right via individual case studies and several statistical investigations.

More: CounterPunch or Suckerpunch? « Meldungen Aus Dem Exil

And there's lots more about CounterPunch at the Jews Sans Frontieres blog.

Friday, 28 August 2015

40% young Russia: We’ll beat America in nuclear war

Crosspost from LGF.

Does America have a clue how much hate against them is being stirred up in Russia?
This kind of breakdown in communication was also noted by sociologist Karina Lipiya of the Levada polling organization.

“People generally do not want to hear another point of view,” she told Radio France Internationale’s Russian-language website.

Her Levada colleague Alexei Levinson noted how significant numbers of Russians were now entertaining thoughts that “until yesterday were unthinkable and unacceptable”.

As he wrote in business daily Vedomosti in April, 47% men said Mr Putin’s statement about being ready to use nuclear weapons “did not make them fearful”. A large proportion of young people (40%) also thought Russia could defeat the United States in a nuclear war, he said.

Mr Levinson linked these bellicose opinions to the influence of television.

Recent research suggests that Kremlin TV propaganda may have declined in popularity from a peak in the summer and autumn of 2014.

But Ukraine still dominates the TV news, and talkshows where guests rant about US plans for world domination continue to command large audiences.

For veteran TV critic Yury Bogomolov, this suggests that many Russian people have somehow become “addicted to propaganda” and now have an “appetite for aggression”.

“There is a cycle of hatred in our society,” he wrote in a blog on the website of independent radio station, Ekho Moskvy.
More: BBC Monitoring - How TV Propaganda Is Affecting Russian Society

Corbyn is wrong says Ukrainian human rights legend

The author of this piece is one of the most respected figures on human rights in Ukraine. She has been fearless is going after all abusers, from all sides.

Her organisation, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, was birthed from the legendary Russian human rights group Memorial. Reblogged with permission.


By Halya Coynash

Jeremy Corbyn, frontrunner for the UK Labour Party leadership and therefore a potential UK Prime Minister, affirms a commitment to human rights on his website. He demonstrates none when it comes to recent events in Crimea, the rest of Ukraine and Russia, and this is not through lack of attention to this part of the world. His assessment of Russia’s annexation of Crimea coincides nicely with that presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and on Russian television and he has simply ignored grave human rights concerns under Russian occupation.

In February and March 2014 Russian troops seized control and forcibly annexed Crimea. Ukraine was too weak, even with the undoubted support of the Crimean Tatar population behind it, to defend its sovereign territory. The security assurances given by Russia, the USA and UK to Ukraine via the1994 Budapest Memorandum proved meaningless, and Crimea remains to this day under illegal Russian occupation.

The UK’s unwillingness to risk military conflict with Russia is understandable. Corbyn’s justification for non-intervention is much less so. He first expressed his views on March 8, 2014, two days after the leaders who had been installed at gunpoint had announced a largely alternative-less ‘referendum’ on joining Russia to be held ten days later, on March 16. Corbyn did note that “Russia has gone way beyond its legal powers to use bases in the Crimea. Sending unidentified forces into another country is clearly a violation of that country’s sovereignty.” He then added the non sequitur that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called ex-President Viktor Yanukovych “political history” and expressed woolly hopes for a “reduction of tensions”.

He asserts that one must “recognize the history lurking behind the drama”, and that “Ukraine’s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history”. He then claims significant collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War and states that “their descendants could be seen bearing Nazi insignia and spouting racist slogans in Kiev only a week ago.”

This is the first of a number of assertions that parrot attempts to discredit Euromaidan made first by Yanukovych, then by Putin. They are to this day pushed by Russian state-controlled media, including Russia Today which Corbyn is on record as praising for objective reporting. The refrain is heard again in an article for Morning Star in April: “The far-right is now sitting in government in Ukraine. The origins of the Ukrainian far-right go back to those who welcomed the Nazi invasion in 1941 and acted as allies of the invaders.”

The narrative Corbyn repeats, both with respect to Euromaidan and to subsequent events, has been repeatedly refuted by prominent Jewish figures in Ukraine and by Viacheslav Likhachev, the main researcher on anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine. It has also been debunked by the results of both presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014, where both far-right parties did extremely badly.

Corbyn’s chief villains in all parts of the world appear to be the USA and NATO. In the above articles written shortly after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, he effectively suggests that Russia is protecting itself against attempts by NATO to “encircle it”. From the Morning Star article, one could forget that it was Russia who breached international law by invading Crimea, and by funding and manning those who were by then already seizing control in parts of eastern Ukraine. Russia’s behaviour was, he claims, “not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied”. This is how he describes the seizure of government buildings, airports and military units in Crimea by Russian forces.

It is supposedly NATO whose “belligerence endangers us all”, although there was no question back in Spring 2014 of Ukraine joining NATO. Corbyn from the comfort of his North Islington home is against Poland and the Baltic States having been allowed to join NATO, although the Baltic republics are now seriously concerned that even such membership will not prevent Russian aggression.

This, Corbyn will claim, as does the Kremlin-funded Russia Today, is all US / NATO imperialist propaganda.

On a recent interview for Russia Today, Corbyn is reported to have suggested that he would seek closer ties with Russia. He is in interesting company with the same closer ties currently being promoted by a number of far-right parties in Europe including France’s National Front; Hungary’s Jobbik; and Bulgaria’s Ataka Party. It was members of a number of far-right and some neo-Nazi parties who were invited to Crimea to ‘observe’ the March 16 ‘referendum’, and then in November ‘elections’ held by the Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas.

It is obvious why Russia Today ignores or denies the mounting evidence of human rights abuse in Crimea and in areas under Kremlin-backed militant control in Donbas. It is unclear and disturbing why Corbyn is following suit.

The following are just some of the developments that cannot be attributed to US or NATO propaganda.

A serious attack on Crimean Tatar leaders and the Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly. Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev and the Head of the Mejlis Refat Chubarov have been banned from their homeland. Dzhemiliev’s son Khaiser has been taken to Russia and is facing a lengthy term of imprisonment with his father unable to even visit him. The Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz has been in detention since Jan 2015 on legally absurd charges of involvement in a demonstration on Feb 26, 2014, i.e. before Russia’s invasion and annexation. The vast majority of Crimean Tatars opposed Russian occupation from the outset and they have been increasingly targeted in repressive measures aimed at forcing them into exile or silence. Chiygoz believes that his ongoing detention is specifically because he has made it clear that Crimea is his homeland and he is not leaving. Russia forced virtually all Crimean Tatar and independent Crimean media to close or move to mainland Ukraine. The investigation into the murder of Reshat Ametov, abducted from his peaceful protest outside parliament and tortured to death has been terminated, and the occupation authorities have made no attempt to investigate the abduction and / or forced disappearances of a number of other civic activists and young Crimean Tatar men.

A Euromaidan activist Oleksandr Kostenko is facing a 4-year sentence on equally absurd charges relating to an alleged incident in Feb 2014, before annexation and in Kyiv, not Crimea. His father has disappeared in mysterious circumstances and all attempts to get the clear evidence that Kostenko was subjected to torture have failed.

The same is true of Russia’s “absolutely Stalinist” Crimean show trial of renowned Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and left-wing civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko. They, together with two other opponents of Russian occupation were arrested, almost certainly tortured and then taken by force to Russia where Sentsov has now been sentenced to 20 years quite literally for nothing.

At least one blogger is in detention for writing articles critical of Russian occupation. Ukrainians who held a meeting where they laid flowers in honour of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and read his works were prosecuted for holding a ‘prohibited symbol’ – a Ukrainian flag. Similar cases of harassment are ongoing.

All faiths except the Russian Orthodox Church are facing repression in Crimea. The same is also true of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics in Donbas.

The list of very serious concerns – of hostage-taking; extra-judicial executions and torture carried out by Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas – is very long.

Does Corbyn really see all of this as the fault of NATO? Does he genuinely believe that Amnesty International, Russian human rights organizations, as well as the slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov were all duped (or paid?) by NATO when they revealed details of direct Russian military involvement and deaths in Ukraine?

Or does he not care? This, one assumes, is the case with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who found it lucrative to move to Russia and become a spokesperson for Gasprom. It is likely that Marine Le Pen has similar reasons for supporting Russia’s position on Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

It would be a damning position for a future leader of the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sanctions response needed to Sentsov, Kolchenko case


Reblogged with permission from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. The author is one of the leading and most respected human rights activists in Ukraine.


By Halya Colnash

International outrage over the long sentences passed on Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko was as foreseeable as the predetermined outcome of Russia’s Crimean show trial. The courage and defiance shown by Sentsov, Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev was certainly not what Moscow had planned. It is now for Ukraine and western countries to demonstrate commitment to rule of law by ensuring proper penalties against all those who take part in Russia’s farcical prosecutions and trials of Ukrainian nationals (and thus far one Estonian).

It was clear back at the end of May 2014 that Russia was seeking a Crimean show trial aimed at sending a chilling warning to other opponents of Russia’s annexation to keep their head low. The Stalinist echoes were present from the outset in the emphasis on the demonized Ukrainian far-right nationalist party Right Sector and in the public demonstration of the ‘confession’ of two of the men – Oleksy Chirniy and Gennady Afanasyev. Both Sentsov and Kolchenko insisted throughout on their innocence and Sentsov consistently repeated his account of the torture and threats he had been subjected to.

That was the Kremlin’s first miscalculation, and there have been many since. Moscow has effectively abducted Ukrainian nationals and its attempts to foist Russian citizenship on the men are overtly illegal. The defence could only be forced to remain silent about the file material for so long. Once the indictments were made public, and from the first day of the trial, it was clear for everybody to see that there was no ‘terrorist plot’, and no evidence at all against Sentsov.

As the Memorial Human Rights Centre pointed out in its statement declaring both men political prisoners, the one charge against Kolchenko was in no way ‘terrorism’. Memorial pointed to analogous cases in Russia where the charges had been different and the sentence at least three times smaller.

The prosecutor Igor Tkachenko ignored all of this, as did the three judges: presiding judge Sergei Mikhailyuk, Viacheslav Korsakov and Edward Korobenko.

There was no response from any of them to Afanasyev’s retraction of his testimony and statement in court that he had given it under duress. There was none when the first real lawyer that Afanasyev has had, Alexander Popkov, read out Afanasyev’s account of the torture he had been subjected to and the threats he had received both before and after his courageous act in court.

The prosecutor and judges are demonstrably complicit in the crime committed against Afanasyev, Kolchenko and Sentsov.

It took a long time for countries to agree to sanctions against people implicated in the death in detention of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. This case, that of Nadiya Savchenko and some other Ukrainians, as well as the trial of Estonian police officer Eston Kohver, are more straightforward. No country should be allowed to abduct foreign nationals and convict them in farcical court trials on fabricated charges.

In the Crimean case there is also compelling evidence of the use of torture, and two of the men are now already serving sentences. Afanasyev in particular is in danger, and measures are needed at international level to safeguard both him and his mother from likely reprisals.

A list is currently being drawn up of all those most implicated. It will almost certainly include four FSB officers identified by the Centre for Journalist Investigations as directly involved in the arrest and torture of, at least, Oleg Sentsov. All four are former officers of the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] and are, or until recently were, Ukrainian nationals. The four men are Alexander Kulabukhov; Sergei Markov; Dmitry Vasilkov and Alexander Zinchenko. It will also include the investigators, prosecutors, judges and others implicated in the men’s prolonged detention; the refusal to investigate credible allegations of torture; and multiple other violations of the men’s rights.

A similar list is needed for former pilot and Ukrainian MP Nadiya Savchenko, with this certainly including people holding high position in Russia’s Investigative Committee. Ideally such a list could also include those responsible for the ongoing detention without properly legal services of 73-year-old Yury Soloshenko; the detention and torture of Serhiy Litvinov, and at least five other Ukrainians now in Russian detention.

A clear message is needed now. The ‘trial’ of Nadiya Savchenko has not begun, but there are all grounds for expecting a similar travesty. The sentences passed on Sentsov and Kolchenko will certainly be appealed.

The appeal court judges, as well as all those taking part in Savchenko’s trial and other demonstrations by Moscow of legal banditry should know now that their actions will have real consequences for them. Criminal orders to destroy human lives should not be obeyed, and those who arrest, torture, abduct and convict those the Kremlin wants punished should, as a minimum, face automatic bans on entry to EU and other democratic countries, and any other measures already applied to those on the Magnitsky List.

Edited to add: The Ukrainian Foreign Minister has said that he will be pushing for sanctions.

See also:

There is no "civil war" in Ukraine

A Russian war propaganda organ trumpeting the BBC's reaffirmation on terminology
Pump 'Ukraine + "civil war"' into Google and click the 'News' tab and you get dozens of results. Deutsche Welle, Newsweek, CNBC, Huffington Post, The Independent, The Nation, Washington Post, and The Daily Telegraph have all used that phrase to describe what is going on.

As does the BBC, although Euan McDonald, a Kyiv Post Editor, says that's because the BBC "has to use certain terminology to continue to have access to separatist areas." Its own reporters covered the initial takeover of government buildings in the Donbas and said that Russian Special Forces appeared to be involved and they have someone like Mark Urban, the Diplomatic and defence editor of the BBC's lead news show Newsnight, covering in March the presence of Russian troops.

Here Cambridge University's Dr Rory Finnin (Department of Slavonic Studies) and Dr Thomas D Grant (Faculty of Law) argue that what terms are used by someone as trusted as the BBC is not a minor issue and we should all stop employing euphemisms. Reblogged with permission.


The war in Ukraine, we are often told, is a “civil war” involving “rebels” fighting the central government in Kiev. Such restrictive, inaccurate terms greatly misrepresent the conflict, which has already killed over 6,500 and displaced at least 1.4m Ukrainians. Too often, the crisis is talked about as if it’s entirely internal to Ukraine, a domestic affair presumably brought on by language politics, identity clashes and historical grievances. Best, therefore, to leave it alone.

Wrong. Ukraine is waging a war of self-defence against an international aggressor – the Russian Federation – whose conduct threatens our collective security. This war is now 18 months old, and we should know better by now.

Face facts

It’s not as if the signs aren’t clear. Recent weeks have seen another intense spike in fighting in eastern Ukraine. Given all the prior sabre-rattling, nuclear threats and general rhetorical brinksmanship, it takes little imagination to see the conflict expanding beyond Ukraine’s borders into EU member states.

Labelling such a crisis a “civil war” serves no purpose of diplomacy or journalistic balance. It is a failure to serve the public interest. The war needs to be described as it really is.

Fundamentally, this conflict was started and is sustained by Russia’s armed intervention, not a Ukrainian civic collapse. In nearly a quarter century of independence, the Ukrainian public’s support for national unity has been stronger than in many long-established states, among them Spain, Belgium and Canada. As Vladimir Putin has since proudly admitted, it was Russian troops in the spring of 2014 who seized Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

The Russian military presence has not gone away. In August 2015, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors again encountered personnel in eastern Ukraine openly identifying as Russian regular military. These forces continue to lead, train, equip and fight alongside militants advancing Russian neo-imperial and ultra-nationalist ideologies against a government in Kiev espousing respect for democracy, transparency and the rule of law.

To tiptoe around the Kremlin’s armed intervention in Ukraine falls short of the basic standards of war reportage. And it’s absurd to call the Donetsk and Luhansk authorities “rebel” administrations when they would not have come into being and would not continue to function without Russian backing.

We do not talk about a Manchukuo “rebel” administration in 1930s China without mentioning that Japan had invaded it; scarcely anybody pays lip service to the myth of an organic, independent separatist movement in 1930s Manchuria. Nobody should credit Russia’s fiction about “rebel” administrations in today’s Ukraine.

Lest we forget, the purported “rebels” in eastern Ukraine agree. Here is Igor Girkin-Strelkov, a Russian national associated with Russian military intelligence who helped lead the “rebel” movement in eastern Ukraine, speaking only weeks ago: “You are making an idiot or fool of yourself if you think that [the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics] were formed by themselves.”

An important conclusion follows from these facts: the Russian Federation is an aggressor and should be characterised as such whenever we talk about areas of Ukraine that have fallen under the Kremlin’s effective military and political control.

There is no need to report aggression in inverted commas. Since early 2014, the Russian Federation has carried out a host of acts of aggression against Ukraine as defined in Article 3 of the UN General Assembly’s definition of aggression. Russia has invaded Ukrainian territory – Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk so far – and attacked Ukrainian forces without a shred of plausible legal justification; bombarded Ukrainian territory and killed Ukrainian citizens; and seized territory that belongs within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine, declaring it part of Russia. These are nothing less than acts of aggression under international law.

Nor do the sham referenda in Crimea in March 2014 or in Donetsk and Luhansk in May 2014 offer any legal wiggle room, since these “Potemkin plebiscites” resulted directly from an invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

As far as the referendums go, the UN General Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly all agree they were unlawful and illegitimate. To argue or imply that there has been an act of “self-determination” in any part of Ukraine that calls into question Ukraine’s sovereignty over its recognised territory contradicts the highest available organised expressions of international law.

If editors and journalists are substituting their own judgement of the situation, then they must explain why.

A spade’s a spade

Then there’s the matter of Ukraine’s right to self-defence, which of course is a right of all states. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is just about the only case where a UN member state has seized and in effect sliced off whole regions of another UN member state.

In its official statements the Kremlin goes further still, repeatedly calling into question the right of Ukraine to continue in its current form, invoking a so-called “New Russia” across vast, strategic tracts of the country, and even threatening nuclear action in the wider context of the conflict.

This is not garden-variety geopolitical grandstanding. When Iraq attacked Kuwait in 1990, it was universally condemned, and Kuwait’s right of self-defence was affirmed. There is no principled reason for responding to Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine with different rhetoric or a different description.

It’s time to face reality. The continued escalation of the war in Ukraine poses a serious challenge to international public order. Journalists have risked everything to report events from this war, and we need to stop watering down their reports with euphemism and understatement. We need to call this what it is: a war of self-defence against an international aggressor.

The Conversation

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Ukraine has a new left party

A picket by Ukrainian left party Social Movement
Reblogged from Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.   

On 13th June in Kyiv, the founding conference of a new Ukrainian left party, Social Movement, took place.  The consolidation of the participants in the ‘Social Maidan’ has caused uproar among different forces.

Here we publish a collection of interviews with activists of the new party which was conducted by the Russian Socialist Movement.  This is part 1 of the interviews – part 2 with an interview with Fyodor Ustinov will appear shortly.

Translation by Valerie Graham and Jake Lagnado.

Social Movement - A new broad left party to counter "the Ukrainian version of Putinism"

What groups and activists make up the new party ‘Social Movement?

Andriy Ischenko
Andriy Ischenko (trade union militant, Odessa)

At the founding congress of the party, there were delegates from five big Ukrainian cities, Kyiv, Odessa. Dniepropetrovsk, Cherkassy and Krivyi Rih.

This was a technical congress to deal with the formalities of the Ministry of Justice and start the process of registering the party. In fact we have militants and groups of sympathisers in all the big cities in the country.

Since the congress there’s been a great deal of interest in the party and every day the interest grows and we get more people joining us.

The party is made up of people with different points of view, from moderate social democrats to radical Marxists. Among them are militants from left groups, human rights defenders, trade union militants, miners, scientists, journalists and many, many more.

We’re pleased that at the base of the party are the important trade unions which have for some time been spreading the idea of getting political representation. Our combative, independent trade union, Defence of Labour, (Zahist Pratsy) joined in the process of unification, a whole galaxy of important union militants from Kryvyi Rih, Kyiv and other regions of Ukraine.

It’s enough just to the mention the names of some of the people at the core of the party to understand the variety of people at its base and the kind of differences we are managing to solve on the difficult path of uniting the Ukrainian left…. Volodymyr Chimerys,  Zakhar Popovich,, Volodymir Ischenko,  Vitaly Dudin,  Andriy Repa, Nina Potarskaya, Denis Pilash,  Oleh Vernik,  Artiom Tydva, Evgeni Derkach,  Oleksandr Krauchuk ,  Andriy Voliansky,  Taras Salamaniuk,  Andriy Ischenko and many more important militants.

We contemplate the future with guarded optimism. We will work with determination – we’ll get results. The ideas, efforts and energy of so many people cannot disappear into nothing.

In Ukraine at present are there social groups among those supporting the “new left”?

Andriy Repa
Andriy Repa (Left militant, Cherkassy)

The new left can’t just sit back and rely on one social group or another – that would be very comfortable but it lacks perspectives. We have to find gaps, openings, hollows, cracks, every kind of point of conflict which appears within the capitalist system. That’s the place where the left must be present in society, as part of the social conflict.

From within this conflict we must create alliances. It may be the workers’ everyday struggles, student strikes, civil society meetings, art exhibitions, anything that might shatter the system of profiteering and oppression.

But the main means of struggle has not changed since the days of Marx. It is the class struggle between labour and capital. The focus of this central antagonism in our society are not necessarily the most numerous or the most “decadent” groups, but the revolutionary workers and progressive students.

In short you can say that as in May 1968 we need an alliance of the working class and intellectuals.

Oleksandr Ladynenko
Oleksandr Ladynenko (union activist, Odessa):

In Ukraine today it is hard to find a social group not interested in a broad left party. And the range of these groups is vast: from the unemployed and retired to the lower layers of the petty bourgeoisie. Our largest base is the thousands of persons in paid work.

You have to understand that the main enemy of the political left and our social base is big capital and oligarchs, foreign transnational companies, corrupt people of all kinds and other parasites.

Currently our party has a moderate programme of reforms whose necessity is recognised at virtually every level of society. And everything depends on whether we can convince civil society of the need for direct struggle for these reforms. Then in the struggle, with the trust of the masses, we can talk about a new programme of a truly revolutionary transformation of society. The task of the revolutionary wing of the party will be to develop this programme, because another revolutionary situation in our country can arise pretty fast.

How do you see the interaction of the party and the unions? Who needs the other most: the unions or the party?

Monday, 24 August 2015

'Very existence' of Crimean Tatars under threat

#everydaydiscrimination A Crimean Tatar worker being told not to speak his native language, speak Russian only. Via RyskeldiSatke.

Reblogged from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. My only comment is to wonder where the solidarity from fellow Muslims (outside of Turkey) is. Such as those forming part of the so-called 'Stop the War Coalition'.


Refat Chubarov, Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or representative assembly, has addressed an appeal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel; French President Francois Hollande and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko who are meeting in Berlin on Aug 24 [today].

Refat Chubarov writes that the leaders’ meeting will take place 542 days after the beginning of Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine that resulted in the occupation of Crimea and the bloody military conflict in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Russia has effectively been waging war with Ukraine for 542 days with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed; tens of thousands injured, and over one and a half million people forced from their homes.

In Russian-occupied Crimea, the Head of the Mejlis writes, the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous population of Crimea, are facing a direct threat to their very existence. The Crimean Tatars held mass demonstrations and protests in Feb-March 2014 against Russia’s invasion and they continue to support the UN General Assembly’s March 27, 2014 Resolution on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Chubarov points out that this Resolution, as well as numerous other calls by the UN, the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, have been ignored by Russia which continues its unlawful occupation.

The tragic position of the Crimean Tatar is worsening from day to day. Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov, civic activist Sinaver Kadyrov and Ismet Yuksel have all been banned from Crimea and the Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz remains in detention, together with Crimean Tatars Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy. Dozens of young Crimean Tatars have been abducted or disappeared, with some later found murdered. There is still no trace of others. Hundreds of activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement have been subjected to repression by the occupation regime’s punitive organs.

Refat Chubarov addresses the three leaders, saying that history has placed on them, and the leaders of other sovereign states a huge responsibility not only for the fate of their own people and countries, but – without any exaggeration or pathos – for the future of all humanity.

Human civilization which in the twentieth century endured the mortal threats posed by the fascist and communist regimes must not be held hostage to the irresponsible actions of Russia’s rulers who have violated all norms of international law and ignored the right of people to freedom and peace.

No country or people should be sacrificed to please an aggressor. The Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar people who endured Holodomor and the Deportation have the right to receive full support and assistance from the international community.

Refat Chubarov ends by asking the leaders to take effective measures during their meeting aimed at restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders and ensuring Ukraine’s sovereignty over its entire territory, including Crimea.

See also:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Keep an eye on Belarus

Mikola Statkevich + his wife

The news on Saturday that Belarus had released the last of its political prisoners took everyone by surprise. It happened, according to AFP, because "political expediency propelled the move as well as the need for risk management as main ally Russia is sinking into recession."

One of those released was the former Presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich. He said:
I will not leave Belarus under any circumstances. I will fight for creating a normal country.

Together we will make this country normal and free.
President Lukashenko is up for a fifth term in October and Statkevich's release came a day after the last day for Presidential candidates to register.

The EU issued statements welcoming the move with the Germans saying that the EU will have to "consider how a greater rapprochement can take place" with Belarus.

Here Window On Eurasia looks at the context, reblogged with permission.


By Paul Goble

The five key assumptions on which Moscow’s policy toward Mensk over the last decade have been built appear increasingly shaky, as Belarus distances itself from Russia on Ukraine and other policies, a shift that has largely passed unnoticed the West which views Lukashenka as “the last dictator in Europe” and as an inevitable ally of the Kremlin.

On the one hand, these changes open the way to a fundamental reordering of the security environment in Eastern Europe given that Belarus not Ukraine is between Moscow and Berlin. But on the other, they also mean that Moscow may consider more radical means of imposing its will on Belarus, including hybrid war and the possible ouster of Lukashenka himself.

For the past decade or more, Moscow has operated on five assumptions about Belarus all of which are either completely false or are becoming so. They include:

· Moscow has assumed that Belarusians are not a separate nation. Even more than in the case of Ukraine, the Russian leadership has assumed and acted on the idea that Belarusians are not a self-standing nation. That was never the case, and ever more evidence of that is coming to the fore. See, for example, “Belarusian Language and Identity On the Rebound …,”

· Moscow especially under Putin has felt that Belarusians are among those most likely to be comfortable with authoritarianism in Russia because they live under an authoritarian regime of their own. But that view understates the size and strength of the Belarusian opposition which supports democracy and human rights in both countries. See “Lukashenka’s Belarus on the Brink of an Explosion, Warsaw Paper Says,”

· Moscow believes that it has Lukashenka’s regime in its pocket because it provides it with massive subsidies. But recently, Moscow’s ability to provide those is increasingly in question; and Lukashenka who needs assistance to remain in power is not only forced to look elsewhere but is increasingly willing to do so (

· Moscow is convinced that Belarus has no place to go because of the attitude of the West toward Lukashenka as “the last dictator in Europe.” No less critical of Lukashenka than it was, the West now recognizes it faces a much more dangerous dictator in Putin. And Putin’s own dislike for Lukashenka is making such changes easier in both Mensk and Western capitals. See “Putin Hates Lukashenka But Uses Belarus like a Russian Province, Shushkevich Says” at

· Finally, Moscow has long convinced itself – and many in the West have shared this view – that Lukashenka’s critical remarks about Moscow are only to try to extract more resources from Russia or intended for domestic consumption to undercut the appeal of opposition nationalists. But in recent months and especially in recent weeks, the Belarusian leader has gone further than ever before, infuriating Moscow and raising questions about what Lukashenka really means. For his comments and Russia’s reaction, see
Released anarchist Artyom Prokopenko
In addition to this, there are three reasons for thinking that Lukashenka, long viewed as frozen in the status of a satellite to Moscow, is now in motion. First, the Belarusian leader has staked out positions on Ukraine, the defense of his own country, and his opposition to the whole notion of a Russian world including Belarus that suggest he is shopping for a new arrangement not only with Moscow but with the West as well. He is providing assistance to Ukraine and even conducting military maneuvers that from the perspective of some are not what Moscow would like to see (

Second, Lukashenka has more room for maneuver because Putin has almost no allies because of his aggression in Ukraine and thus doesn’t want to alienate completely the one country that is usually but not always accurately put in his column. As editor Petr Bologov puts it today, Putin right now has no other ally “west of Smolensk” and doesn’t want to alienate someone who might under certain conditions be one again. As long as the Ukrainian crisis goes on, Lukashenka will have that running room, and Moscow will be at risk of losing Mensk (

And third, Lukashenka now has an alternative grouping to turn to than the EU and the US, both of whom remain extremely critical of his regime’s repressive approach. That new grouping is the Intermarium alliance of the countries between the Baltic and the Black Sea now being pushed by Warsaw. Because Belarus would be a key component in such a grouping, Mensk may find it easier to enter that arrangement pending a fundamental change of heart in the West. And if Belarus is able to participate in that, such cooperation could lead to changes in Mensk and also changes in the West’s perception of Lukashenka’s regime. On this, see “New Polish President Makes Baltic–Black Sea Alliance a Centerpiece of His Foreign Policy” at polish president makes balticblack.html.

Despite all this, Lukashenka may not make a Western turn. Moscow has enormous leverage in Belarus, including but not limited to the penetration of his regime, the aid it continues to provide, and the ability to portray Lukashenka in the worst possible light in Western capitals by playing up not just current human rights concerns but also largely inaccurate images of Belarus and Belarusians from the past.

Moreover, if Lukashenka goes very far in turning away from Moscow and does not get the backing of the West that he may hope for, Putin almost certainly would consider a hybrid war against Belarus, one that if it began, the West might be even more reluctant to oppose than it has been in the case of Ukraine. The Kremlin leader knows that, and the Belarusian government does as well.

But despite that, the shifts in Minsk are sufficiently serious that Russian commentators are now considering it actively. In an interview with this week, Sergey Mikheyev of the Moscow Center for Political Conjunctions, said that “the change of a geopolitical partner for Belarus would be a catastrophe” (

The fact that people like Sergeyev feel compelled to make that argument, however, shows just that some in Moscow are afraid that it could happen and represents an implicit acknowledgement that such a change would be “a catastrophe” not for Belarus but for the Russian Federation.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The fascists in Russia's hybrid army

Type 'fascist Ukraine' into Google and the first dozens of results all refer to the Ukrainian government and those forces fighting the Donbas separatists.

You will be hard pressed to find any references to the presence of fascists in Russia's hybrid army in Ukraine. Ones like those pictured above in an astonishing piece of detective work by Dajey Petros.

Petros is a Dutch blogger who has been doing great work using similar tools to those employed by Eliot Higgins' Bellingcat. Taking content from social media and using various tools to tell a story from it - like the story of the Russian missile which shot down the Malaysian Boeing.

Far right and fascist groups both in Russia and throughout Europe are backing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk 'People's Republics' (DPR/LPR) in word and deed. They are raising money for them, despite the sanctions. They hold mass rallies and other events. They send representatives to the Donbas to endorse the 'Republics'. And they send Russians - and sometimes other Europeans - to join the fighting. All with the tacit approval of the Kremlin.

That approval was most sharply on display in March when Europe and Russia's far right groups came together in a conference in St Petersberg. It was organised by the Rodina party whose leader is a Russian Deputy Prime Minister.

The event's star was Alexei Milchakov, the leader of the 'Rusich' group of rebel fighters. Milchakov is infamous for photographs of him with a Nazi flag and a puppy he had allegedly killed. He has also posed in front of the dead bodies of Ukrainian soldiers.

Naming the separatist fascists

Many fascists were involved in setting up the DPR/LPR, such as Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed first 'People's Governor of Donetsk'. His press secretary, Aleksander Kriakov, was described by Donetsk city Chief Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski as "the most famous anti-Semite in the region."

When separatists took over TV broadcasting towers last year they boasted that:
Here, from Sloviansk, we are inflicting a powerful information conceptual blow to the biblical matrix ... to Zionist zombie broadcasting.
They then presented a lecture by former Russian Conceptual Party Unity leader Konstantin Petrov, who the European Association for Jewish Culture (EAJC) describe as a "anti-Semitic neo-pagan national-Stalinist sect."

In March last year Josip Zisels, Chair of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities in Ukraine, noted that pro-Russian organisations' websites "have published many anti-Semitic materials which were meant to instigate hatred against the Maidan as being allegedly inspired by the Jews."

Former DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Borodai was a writer for the Russian fascist newspaper Zavtra. He opened the DPR's first foreign 'consulate' on the premises of the Moscow branch of the Eurasian Youth Union (EYU), the youth wing of the Eurasia Party, headed by fascist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin has openly called for genocide against Ukrainians.

Another prominent Russian fascist in the Donbas is Gennadiy Dubovoy, whose colleagues are shown in the top and left photos participating in some sort of bizarre Nazi ritual. (See lots more whacky photos.)

Yuli Kharlamova
Participating in the ritual are several women and one is Yuli Kharlamova, a presenter on the Russian TV channel ANNA- News and an FSB (Russian security services) agent.

There are many other individual as well as organised Russian fascists who have been documented from social media engaged in leading roles among the separatists. As Petros puts it "in Russia's [hybrid] army the Nazis structurally and openly belong to the core and they train others." Not only that but Russian soldiers who have been captured have been found to have Nazi tattoos.

Here are the patches for five fascist militias in that separatist hybrid army (there are others):

Monday, 17 August 2015

Brown's right, Corbyn will 'ally' with Putin

See below for why I am illustrating this post with cute ducklings. Pic by Lou Bueno.

It is really so pathetic and demonstrative of this Labour leadership election that it is only now we get the 'calling out' of Corbyn on Putin - and it's from Gordan Brown and it's done in this slight, sideways fashion. On Sunday Brown said:
I have to say that if our global alliances are going to be alliances with Hezbollah and Hamas and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, there is absolutely no chance of building a world-wide alliance that can deal with poverty and inequality and climate change and financial instability, and we’ve got to face up to that fact.
This has drawn the predictably furious comments and one in particular from my comrade Andrew Coates* deserves a response. Andrew wrote that:
Corbyn has, however ill-chosen some of his words have been, never suggested an “alliance” with these forces.
But Brown is right. Corbyn's anti-Americanism means that in something like the UN vote on a tribunal for those responsible (which would be the Kremlin) for bringing down the Malaysian airliner MH17 how would the UK vote? Presumably we would abstain? -- That is being in 'alliance' with Russia.

There is far more to it of course but the minute Corbyn wrote about Russia being "provoked" over Ukraine that meant he was buying into their whole spiel, their whole shtick. -- That is being in 'alliance' with Russia.

In saying that Poland (and the Baltic states, one assumes) should not 'have been allowed' to join NATO -- that is being in 'alliance' with Russia.

There is no formal agreement between the Kremlin and Marine LePen - and if you talk about the multi-million Euro bank loan they go crazy claiming it's just business - but of course the National Front are in 'alliance' with the Kremlin, they demonstrate it in the European Parliament. Same goes for Syriza or Der Linke, or UKIP for that matter. And Corbyn, here's him telling Russia Today he agrees with those voting against sanctions against Russia in the Parliament.

Brown should have nailed it - he had long enough time to! - but he did not, so Corbyn can carry on pretending to be the peacemaker, the one-who-sits-on-fences. Aided by the media, (including the left media) who are - let's be honest - giving Jeremy a soft soaping on Russia.

And Corbyn has made a lot of, frankly, stupid and ignorant statements. Take for instance this interview with Russia Today from June last year. Two weeks before MH17 he was claiming that Russia had 'withdrawn' and he was complaining about 'planes bombing people'. Has he once, on that channel, condemned Russian involvement? Of course not. -- That is 'allying' with Russia!

Russia Today, by the way, are falling over themselves to give Corbyn wall-to-wall positive coverage (as they did Ron Paul in the last US Presidential election). Here Russia 'allies' with Corbyn!

Meanwhile, the war in the Donbas continues with Russia building new bases and sending in new weapons and shelling more villages and towns.

Meanwhile, on Saturday 50 ducklings from Ukraine were burnt alive in what the Russian siege liberal TV news channel Dozhd suggested was a 'demonstrative act'. Just think for a second about what's being 'demonstrated' in that vile act and by and to whom.

This follows the Pythonesque treatment by officials in the village of Apastovo, in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, some 800 kilometres east of Moscow, of three 'illegal' frozen geese from a local shop.

On July 29, President Putin signed an executive decree ordering the destruction of sanctioned food imports. His order, however, was short on details about how exactly officials are meant to carry out this massive undertaking.

So, in the 'Power Vertical' country that is Russia various state actors and agencies have used all manner of available resources to burn, bulldoze, and bury hundreds of tons of boycotted food to attempt to obey Putin's wishes - and videoed the process to prove their loyalty. This is happening despite near universal opposition, 85% according to polling, as Russians have a thing about wasting food, given their history, and Russia has at least 23 million people living in dire poverty.

The 'illegal' frozen geese were then taken to a nearby landfill site where they were run over by a bulldozer several times and then moved to a rubbish tip.

Here's the short version of the surreal video (there's a longer one where the bureaucracy goes on forever):

Friday, 14 August 2015

Ukraine: Get it together on LGBT rights

Photo from the VKontakte page for the Odesa Festival

It is both disturbing and frustrating to read, yet again, of Ukraine blocking LGBT rights, in this case the right to demonstrate.

As Maxim Eristavi wrote last year, gay people were part of the Maidan demonstrations that overthrew the corrupt government of Yanukovych and Eristavi counted seven among the 'Heavenly Hundred' murdered by Berkut/Russian special forces. He also wrote about the spinelessness shown by the EU on LGBT rights in their negotiations with Ukraine - a fact which has gone unreported and completely undermines Russian propaganda.

That Western pressure can work was shown when President Poroshenko said that the Kyiv Pride march should be allowed to go ahead, dismissing Mayor Klitscho's reasoning. I have no doubt that diplomatic or other pressure on Poroshenko led him to say that.

Western supporters of Ukraine and Western LGBT rights groups must keep on the pressure and must put a boot up the backside of the EU. Ukraine has no excuses, none, and must be firmly told that. We must have the back of our brave comrades in Ukraine.

Reblogged with permission.


By Halya Coynash

The Odesa District Administrative Court has allowed an application from the Odesa City Council and banned the Equality March planned by the LGBT community for Aug 15. The grounds presented and accepted by the court were that disturbances were likely and the authorities could not guarantee law and order.

The application, heard on Aug 12, was supported by the Odesa Police. Kirill Bodelan, Press Secretary for the Odesa Pride 2015 Festival told Dumskaya that the authorities had tried to get all Festival events from Aug 13-15 banned. They wanted to prohibit even the organizers from gathering in groups of more than 3. The court hearing apparently went on until 2 a.m. “After long arguments only the march was banned”, Bodelan says.

Interfax Ukraine reports that the applicants claimed that there was a negative attitude among the public to the Festival, and a high likelihood of violence to participants in the march and disruption of public order. The court also noted that football matches were scheduled for Aug 14 and 16, and ultimately concluded that the march could present a real danger and threat to public order, and to the safety both of participants and other members of the public.

The organizers say that over 200 people, including foreigners, have registered for the Festival and they are adamant that it will take place. They have, however, encountered other disturbing problems with people refusing to rent out venues for the events.

Mob rule?

There are a number of right-wing organizations, especially Right Sector, who have not only expressed antagonism to the LGBT community, but have threatened members with violence. They are almost certainly to blame, together with VO Svoboda thugs, for the violence in Kyiv during and after the May Equality March.

Their homophobia is not a valid excuse for restricting citizens’ rights. This was in fact affirmed by President Petro Poroshenko on the eve of the Kyiv Equality March. He was responding after Right Sector came out with anti-LGBT and anti-western statements identical to those regularly heard in Russia. Right Sector also issued an appeal to the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klichko asking that the march be banned. The authors of this opus claimed, without providing any evidence, that “the public are very negative in their attitude to such LGBT actions. Most Kyiv residents are believers and against such a phenomenon.” More details of the ‘arguments’ presented: United in Homophobic Bigotry: Right Sector echoes Russian anti-LGBT line

The Kyiv March did take place with a very large contingent of police brought in to maintain order. Five police officers were injured during the march, one very seriously.  The Gay Alliance and other civic activists initiated a collection for the injured officer who has thankfully recovered. 10 participants were attacked by masked thugs, presumed to have been from the same far-right parties, after they dispersed. While commending the efforts of the police and National Guard, Amnesty International in Ukraine was still critical, saying that the authorities should have taken better measures to ensure the marchers’ safety after the event.

Odesa’s different path

It may be understandable, but it is also disturbing that it should be Odesa which has now decided to ban an analogous march. This is the city which on May 2, 2014, saw violent disturbances and the tragic fire in the Trade Union House, with the loss of 48 lives.

One of the reasons why the events got out of control lies with the police. 15 months later there is frustratingly little progress in establishing who was to blame for the failure to implement an action plan. This had been drawn up specifically to prevent disturbances that day before, during and after a planned pro-unity demonstration and football match  (See: Odesa May 2 Investigation: A Failed Test for Ukrainian Justice as well as some limited progress here).

There were well-founded reasons to anticipate trouble back in April-May 2014, with Odesa seeming the obvious next target for Russia’s aggression after Donbas. The uses the Russia’s propaganda machine has made of the tragedy of May 2, 2014 have only heightened concerns, as have the string of terrorist attacks and separatist fakes.

There may well be grounds for concern now, but these are only heightened when the authorities, police and court are all willing to restrict people’s rights, claiming that they cannot protect them from homophobic thugs.

A socialist take on the Maidan, and after

Please note that this post is fascinating but very long.

If you would find it easier to save as a PDF file for later viewing, like on a Kindle, you can find a PDF copy of the original here. That contains the original formatting, this version has been slightly tidied, but not edited, for the web.

I have also converted it into an MP3 file using a text to speech service, so you can listen on your bike or train ride - and the outcome is pretty good! If the link to the file breaks please let me know.

Sam Friedman is the author of Teamster Rank and File and other publications about workers’ struggles; a lifelong socialist activist; a poet; and an internationally known researcher on HIV/AIDS epidemiology and prevention.

Here, he speaks with a number of Ukrainians who became involved in the Maidan and then discusses what has happened afterwards. Reblogged from Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.

What Happened in Ukraine?

Ukraine went through mass mobilizations and a political revolution during November, 2014 – February, 2015.  In this it resembles struggles in Tunisia and Egypt since 2010, and as in the Egyptian case, the outcomes of these struggles (to date) have sorely disappointed most of the left in the United States and, indeed, internationally.  Unlike the Egyptian and Tunisian struggles, however, from its outset the struggles in Ukraine were seen in remarkably contrasting ways by different parts of the left.[ii] Some have viewed the Maidan struggles as an illegitimate movement that supported US (or US/EU) imperialism and should thus be opposed. Others have viewed it more favorably.

Far too much of the discussion on the left and in progressive pulications, in my opinion, has focused on the geopolitical aspects of the struggles in Ukraine. Far too little has focused on the failures of those movements that did succeed in ousting their governments in Ukraine but also in Egypt and Tunisia to bring about governments that moved away from supporting austerity, belt-tightening, and support for neo-liberalism.

Most importantly, far too little discussion has focused on the failure of left currents in any of these movements to create serious efforts to bring about a socialist, anarchist, environmentalist or horizontalist reorganization of the economic and social order of society.

In this article, I first try to clarify what happened in Ukraine, focusing primarily on events in the Kyiv Maidan movement but also addressing what has happened since.  I base what I say on the words of friends of mine who took part in it.

At the end of the paper, I will also address several important analytical questions: 1. Why the government that developed from a politically-amorphous popular revolution has been so right wing; 2. why no mass movement has developed to oppose from the left the austerity that has drastically reduced living standards in the months since this revolution; and 3. what are the implications of these events for the actually-existing lefts in the “post-Communist” countries and in the rest of the world.

Unlike most Americans who write and speak about these events, I had several good friends in Ukraine before these events began.[iii]  I had met them because I have conducted research (and assisted in activism) around HIV/AIDS since 1983, with a considerable amount of this research focused on people who use drugs and their communities.

In the 1990s, after the USSR broke up, HIV began to spread among Ukrainian drug users and sex workers.  The people who later became my friends got involved in efforts to stop its spread and to help those who became sick, mainly through the activities of the International AIDS Alliance Ukraine, various medical institutions and the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV.

I became involved with their efforts in 2010 when they decided to use some of my ideas to try to stop HIV’s spread. In the next few years, particularly in visits I would take to Ukraine two or three times a year but also when we would meet at international conferences around drug use and/or HIV, we shared in these efforts and some of their other projects. In some cases, we became very close friends. For example, in some cases, they sought my advice about problems with lovers or other intimate issues.

Because of this corruption, there are enough drugs to treat only half the HIV patients in Ukraine.
On one of my first trips to Ukraine, about two years before the Maidan struggles began, I became impressed with how much more deeply a sense of Russian imperialism was in my friends’ consciousness than I had expected. It was based on their understanding, based on what they learned in school and from family recollections, of Ukrainians’ experiences before 1917, during the Revolution, from the famine and state repression of the 1930s, and in the decades since. It was most strongly impressed upon me by a young woman I have worked with who grew up in Odessa in a non-elite family.

As I have thought over what they were saying about this and other political and economic topics, I have realized how deeply the consciousness of my friends in Ukraine — and I might add, also of my friends in Russia and Poland who are engaged in work with drug users, sex workers and others facing the HIV epidemics in their countries — is deeply shaped by their understanding that what some call “state socialism” was a bad thing. Since they were taught, and are taught, that this is the essence of Marxism and of anti-capitalist thought, this poses barriers to my friends’ thinking through the possible outcomes and strategies for their Maidan revolution — barriers even more challenging than those we face in the USA.

During the Maidan struggles, I had conversations with some of them via Skype and e-mail, and had the opportunity in late January, 2014, as the Maidan struggles were nearing their climax, to have a several hours long face to face conversation with one of them in another country in a context where we could speak freely with much less fear that others would know what we were saying. At that point in time, my overwhelming impression was the similarities between what he was describing and what I remember of the US movement in the mid-1960s in terms of its being an effort to organize democracy from below while engaging in potentially-mortal struggle with the “power structure.”

In May, at the time of the confrontation in Odessa, two of my friends, including the one I spoke with in January, were in New York and were in my office when they heard about the way the confrontation between pro- and anti-Maidan forces had involved considerable violence on both sides, and how this led to the tragedy of scores of anti-Maidan activists being killed in a fire in a building they had taken refuge in (while continuing to exchange gunfire with the pro-Maidan forces.) By then, it was clear that the radical-democracy direction of their consciousness was being moved by events into a more nationalist direction.

Since then, I have spoken with Ukrainian friends face to face in Australia during the International AIDS Conference and during two-week trips to Odessa and Kyiv in February and in May, 2015. During the February trip, I had long conversations about what had gone on, and got written comments or descriptions from several of them.

What this means is that I am reasonably confident that the descriptions they have given me over these months have been honest descriptions. Unlike much of what we read, they have not been presented orally or in written form “with political intent” but rather as statements to a friend.

There is one exception to this, perhaps, in that when they spoke to me in February, 2015, they knew I planned to write it up for US publication.  (And they know I am a Marxist antiwar activist in the US, and that my primary audiences will also be left. Which, I might add, my friends are not.) But even in these cases, they were speaking to me primarily as a friend. This by no means implies that I think that their words are “neutral” or “objective,” since this is not possible in social conflicts of this sort. But I do believe that they were honest reports about what they did and saw.

At this point, I will present several descriptions that friends gave me about what happened in the Kyiv Maidan over the months of the struggle during November, 2013, through February, 2014. I present them edited only for clarification.[iv]

Recollections of the Kyiv Maidan


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The left's Russia naivete

Image from a 'rap-trash group from Sankt-Pitersberg' according to ИванИваныч

Since I patted Harold Wilson on the back in a Miners' Welfare hall in the Midlands in the 70s I have been boy and man Labour. Even when I was yelling at them over the treatment of lesbian and gay asylum seekers I still supported them because I knew Labour could do better.

Ukraine is something else. If Jeremy Corbyn is elected leader he gets to select a shadow Foreign Secretary and he gets to set the direction of travel of Labour Party foreign policy.

As I explained in my now viral post on Corbyn and Ukraine it is clear as day that he supports Russian imperialism. But as I also explained I am pessimistic that the party will take Ukraine and Russia seriously because foreign policy was not being raised at the hustings. It still isn't. Only now - only now - is a key left website like Left Foot Forward publishing 'Why is no one challenging Jeremy Corbyn on foreign policy?'

So why should I trust that the party will reign Corbyn in on foreign policy? Which seems to be the argument from Corbyn supporters who share some, if not all, of my concerns. This puts all the weight onto one person, MP John McDonnell, Corbyn's agent in the leadership race, who does support Ukraine.

I wrote that post because, 1/ no one else was going to and, 2/ because I felt I owed it to the people of Ukraine. Unlike gay asylum seekers, people like the Ukrainian socialist I quoted have, for two years, struggled to get any hearing on the British left. There is no evidence suggesting that will change and that someone like McDonnell will be able, termite like, to eat away at the leader's Putin backing.

There is a perceptible naivete about Russia on the British left and I think it is utterly naive not to think that much of that may be down to Russia itself and not simply the absence of a strong Ukraine lobby or an Iraq hangover (as Gary Kent suggests in his excellent piece on Corbyn and foreign policy).

This is not just about the influence Russia Today and trolls from St Petersberg have on sentiment (which I agree with Jim Kovpak is probably counter productive) but something far subtler and more pernicious and far, far less discussed.

Russia has to an extent shown its hand regarding Corbyn. Russia Today broadcasts his rallies and a key Kremlin foreign policy adviser has said that Corbyn's election would be in Russia's interest.

They have other ways of influencing.

As Anne Applebaum points out when she wrote about Western 'useful idiots':
In some cases it even suits their own financial interests. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, has been lent millions of euros by a Russian bank. With so much money at stake, it’s not surprising she isn’t bothered by the deaths of more than 6,000 people in a totally unnecessary war. National Front leaders regularly visit Moscow. One of Le Pen’s advisers went to Crimea during the “referendum” there last year, to serve as one of the election observers who came to rubber-stamp the process.
Before anyone yells about conspiracies read this by John Schindler (reblogged with permission) which turns the Corbynite argument on its head.

Schindler is an ex counterintelligence officer and someone who I started to read around the time that I wrote about how the Snowden so-called revelations and their use by Glenn Greenwald was a libertarian ploy. I argued that socialists needed to wake up about the real political implications of a movement undermining faith in government as a good.

Schindler I tease as a 'secret socialist' - because he did indeed once write that he is. The idea that someone who used to work for the NSA could be, gasp, socialist probably makes a lot of people I know heads explode. Which I admit I do like the idea of.

From Atlas of Prejudice

Putin Turns Up His Special War Against Europe

By John Schindler

Over the last year, since the Russian theft of Crimea, I’ve unambiguously warned that Vladimir Putin means what he says and he will not shy away from confrontation with the West, even at the risk of major war. Opportunities to deter this resurgent Russia, which I counseled many months ago, were punted on by the U.S. and NATO, so we now face a serious risk of war with Putin over his mounting hegemony in Eastern Europe. Ukraine is just the beginning.

As I’ve long made clear, Russia does not play by Western rules, and Putin and his Kremlin, being Chekists to their core, place great value on what I term Special War, meaning a shadowy amalgam of espionage, propaganda, and terrorism that Western states are poorly positioned to counter. At the end of the last year I predicted that the Kremlin’s Special War against the West was sure to rise, and so it has in the first quarter of this new year.

Last week I explained how Russian espionage against the Czech Republic — no congenital hater of the Russians like, say, Poland or the Baltics — had become so serious that Prague had expelled three Russian spies in recent months, amid warnings from Czech counterintelligence that at least a quarter of the outsized number of Russian diplomats in the country were actually spies posing as diplomats.

Over the last year I’ve explained in detail how Russian intelligence abroad, encompassing the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the military’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), have increased the scope and intensity of their operations against many NATO countries, including France, Germany, Hungary, and Poland. Most of these operations are undertaken by SVR or GRU officers serving under what the Russians term Legal cover, meaning they are pretending to be diplomats, trade representatives, and whatnot.

But in recent years there has also been an uptick in operations by spies whom the Russians term Illegals, meaning intelligence officers who serve abroad without any official protection, often posing as third-country nationals. The massive 2010 round up of a whole network of SVR Illegals in the United States proved a serious blow to the Kremlin, and their espionage still exhibits weaknesses, as evidenced by the recent arrest of an SVR Illegal operating in New York, a second-rater who did not belong to the elite of Russian spies.

Such Kremlin activities extend beyond NATO as well, and now it’s Sweden’s turn. A neutral that’s prone to downplaying threats on political grounds, and is always careful not to needlessly aggravate the Russian bear looming across the Baltic Sea, Stockholm has nevertheless had enough of clandestine Russian shenanigans in their country. This week they have gone public with the extent of the Kremlin’s Special War being waged against Sweden.

According to the Swedish Security Service (Säpo), at least one-third of the Russian diplomats in the country are actually spies. Recent months have seen repeated incidents of Russian intelligence provocations — submarines off the coast, SVR and GRU ramping up clandestine in-country operations — and Stockholm is worried, particularly because Kremlin efforts to recruit spies inside Swedish military and political circles are increasingly obvious.

Gone are the bumbling, vodka-swilling Russian spies of the 1990’s, when the Soviet collapse curtailed much espionage abroad. Since 2006, SVR and GRU operations against the West have risen steadily, to the point that current activities are as intense in number and audacity as they were at the height of the Cold War. Sweden is no exception, and Säpo’s chief analyst noted that Russian spies today are “highly educated and often younger than during the Soviet era. They are driven, goal-oriented and socially competent.” Not to mention that this is only talking about Russian Legals, not Illegals, who can be assumed to add to the ranks of Kremlin spies in Sweden, perhaps considerably.

As always, these spies are recruiting sources, disseminating disinformation, and fomenting dissent in the host country, per longstanding Russian espionage practice. This has become so serious that Stockholm now considers Russia to be the top threat to Swedish national security. The Säpo analyst bluntly explained, “There are hundreds of Russian intelligence officers around Europe and the West. They violate our territory every day … We see Russian intelligence operations in Sweden—we can’t interpret this in any other way—as preparation for military operations against Sweden.”

There’s the rub. Every week of late, Putin turns up the heat on NATO and the West: diplomatic threats, aggressive maneuvers with combat aircraft, the movement of late–model missiles to Kaliningrad, putting Stockholm, Warsaw, and Berlin within easy range of Russian tactical nuclear weapons. Now, Putin either wants open war against the West — not just the clandestine games of Special War — or we wants us to think he does: in either case, this is a terrifying situation.

Many believe that Putin thinks he can use the threat of nuclear blackmail to gain a free hand for Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, and they may be right. Certainly there is little in NATO reactions to Russian aggression to date that suggests a backbone is forming in Berlin, Paris, or Washington, DC. Whether or not the Kremlin wants major war is known only to Putin and the tiny circle of advisors, all hard-edged Chekists like himself, whom the Russian leader listens to.

For now, Special War will continue to achieve Kremlin aims, possibly without major war, while laying the intelligence groundwork for that bigger conflict, should that happen. Today’s news brings word that Polish counterintelligence has detected an air force officer spying for Moscow. He is reported to have passed classified information about Poland’s wing of F-16 fighters, the backbone of Polish defense against the Russians, in what may constitute a serious blow to NATO readiness on the Alliance’s exposed eastern frontier.

Another day, another Russian spy in the West detected. You can expect more of this. If we’re lucky, our conflict with Putin, which is being orchestrated by the Kremlin, will remain confined to SpyWar. Yet how robustly the West confronts Russian Special War — which is ultimately a question of politics, not counterespionage — is a good benchmark for how effectively we can deter a major, and possibly nuclear, war. Without political will, all the West’s acumen in military and intelligence affairs will matter little compared to the robust will shown by Vladimir Putin, who is playing for keeps, and intends to win.

  • Putin’s early years
    As a young spy in Dresden, Vladimir Putin sets the stage for his unprecedented career

Edited to add: Andrew Coates published on a worrying development on the French left, namely signally increased opposition to the EU and even a suggestion to work with the National Front (Marine LePen). Here is my comment to his post:

The Russians have every interest in aiding these forces. Destroying the EU is a clear aim and they will aid anyone, right or left, that will push towards that end.

This month there was the sight of MPs from Sarkozy’s party signing up for a Crimean day trip and Sarkozy himself has changed his rhetoric completely on Russia. They also have two former German Chancellors in their pocket.

John Schindler has written a couple of times on what the Russians are doing in France. This needs to be factored into any consideration of what is going on.

Here on what lay behind Russian TV carrying rants about Charlie Hebdo being a US operation:

“Yet the most interesting part of Martynov’s rant about the Paris atrocity isn’t actually his fact-free pinning it on American intelligence. He revealed what the Kremlin’s real agenda now is. He hailed Europe’s “voice of common sense, calling for the restoration of cooperation with Russia” in the face of terrorism — this being exactly what pro-Putin politicians in France like Marine Le Pen have called for — while asserting that nefarious U.S.-backed terrorism will have the opposite effect of pushing “Russia and Europe closer together in the face of common threats — terrorism and the hegemony of the United States.”

That is a perfect explanation of Moscow’s strategic aim in Europe today, as has been evident for some time to anyone with open eyes, and now Kremlin mouthpieces are saying it openly. As someone who has repeatedly warned Europeans that their rising right-wing is being co-opted by Moscow against NATO and the West, it’s an unpleasant surprise when the Russians are this unsubtle about it. Clearly Putin is feeling confident despite Russia’s dire economic predicament. Watch Paris and Madame Le Pen for the next move.”
(Note that nearly half of polled Russians blamed either the French government for allowing Charlie to exist or blamed Charlie itself

Here is Schindler from last year on the Kremlin being “hyperactive” in France: