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A letter to a friend on the historical and political background to the war in Ukraine

The following letter was sent by WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North to a friend who requested his opinion on a recent online discussion held at a US college on the Russia-Ukraine war.


{The World Socialist Web Site has publicly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, this principled opposition from the political left has nothing in common with the grotesquely one-sided official US-NATO propaganda narrative, which presents the invasion as an entirely unprovoked act of aggression by Russia.}

As democratic socialist, that I am, we are stuck in a cave that has collapsed inside behind us with only an opening in front with a cliff a mile high to freedom, no gear to climb up. I was first glad to finally see Putin go to defend the Donbas regions. The wider invasion was questionable. Due to that word coming up though, could be justified.

{Momentous events such as wars and revolutions invariably raise complex problems of causation. That is one of the reasons why the study of history is an indispensable foundation of serious political analysis. This general truth acquires exceptional importance in any discussion of Russia. This country was the site of arguably the most significant political event of the twentieth century, the 1917 October Revolution, whose historical, political and intellectual legacy still reverberates in our own time. The study of Soviet history remains critical to understanding the politics and problems of the contemporary world.}

That word---history. I've made it a primary talking point on numerous occasions here. Without it's injection to foreign affairs of the US government it often leads to a lack of coherency. Just as our MSCM has erased the history of the Donbas regions since 2014 to manufacture a false narrative towards demonizing Russia and Putin, many attempt to view or debate politics while leaving history out to conform false narratives and misconceptions. Often attached to this within purposeful or ignorant intentions is the changing of context of information or opposing comments. Russia has had a bullseye on it from all the collaborate truly fascist nations for over a hundred years now.

The US has been the primary strong arm for fascism since the end of WWll. European governments have been spreading fascist ideology around the globe for centuries. The acquirement of America simply made us a tool to that hegemony ideology over time. When our government finally outlives its usefulness we will be tossed to the wolves. Just as the terrorist groups and Ukrainians eat as they're used and then spit out for profits and geopolitical agendas. We're looking at the potential to receive what our government has been feeding other nations. When that day comes we best hope we don't face the results our government has been dishing out. Whether this empire falls soon or later, we may be leaving a violent reality Ukrainians are facing today to our children. Revisit the many cities our governments have laid to waste and vision that as our/their future.

{Making this point is not a matter of political nostalgia. The initial remarks of the historian referenced briefly the final decades of the USSR and stressed the trauma caused by its dissolution. However, his emphasis on the impact of this event on the personal psychology of Vladimir Putin did not lead to a serious understanding of either Russia or the present war. He did not attempt to explain the socio-economic foundations of the regime that emerged from the decision of the Stalinist bureaucracy to liquidate the Soviet Union.

Essential questions were not asked. In whose interests does Putin rule? What impact did the privatization of state assets have on the Russian capitalist elite’s perception of its security interests? Comparing the foreign policy of Putin to that of the Soviet Union, what elements of its policies changed and what elements persisted?}

Sound like the same open mic sessions we get from MSCM. No serious rebuttals or serious address towards discovery of all the facts. What you get is a predetermined managed perception.

{That being said, what I found most troubling about the webinar’s discussion of the war was the absence of any reference to the wars that have been waged by the United States, often with the support of its NATO allies, during the last 30 years. The entire coverage of this war in the media has been characterized by a level of hypocrisy that is disgusting. Even if one accepts as absolutely true all the crimes attributed to the Russians during the last month, they do not approach the scale of horrors inflicted by the United States and NATO on Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan—not to mention the other countries that have been on the receiving end of US bombings, missile strikes and targeted killings. Based on what one sees and reads in the broadcast news and print media, one might form the impression that the United States has been overtaken by a virulent form of collective amnesia.}

Well, what do you say about a people who remain silent to the fact that approximately 9000 of their men and women were purposely sent abroad to be killed in wars for profits based on lies and deception in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan. Silent on paying for those wars for the remainder of their life time and into their children's. Their suicide rate over the numbers of deaths X3 and growing. All those maimed and mentally harmed, many of who have been forgotten within various social means. Yea, support the fucking troops. Now they have you supporting fascism. What a profoundly sick ass society we are.

😢 Does no one remember “Shock and Awe”? If the Pentagon had planned the war on Ukraine, Kyiv and Kharkiv would have been flattened on the first night of the war. The US media acted as if the attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol (accepting as true the description of its contemporary use) that cost three lives was an act of unspeakable brutality. Has everyone forgotten the February 1991 US bombing of the Amiriyah air raid shelter on the outskirts of Baghdad that killed approximately 1,500 women and children? It is credibly estimated that deaths caused by US “wars of choice” total more than 1 million. And the dying continues. Millions of children are starving in Afghanistan. Dark-skinned refugees from the disaster created in Libya by NATO bombs are still drowning in the Mediterranean. Is anyone paying attention to this? Are the lives of the people of Central Asia and the Middle East less precious than those of Europeans in Ukraine? 😢 can I get a Yemen 😢

{There is a further issue that was not seriously addressed. Both professors minimalized the continuing political and cultural influence of fascism in Ukraine, which is demonstrated in the renewed glorification of the mass murderer Stepan Bandera and the influence of the heavily armed paramilitary forces, such as the Azov Battalion, who identify with the horrifying legacy of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its armed force, the Ukrainska povstanska armiia (UPA). The critical role played by the OUN and UPA in the extermination of Ukrainian Jews is a matter of established historical fact. The most recent account of their genocidal crimes, Ukrainian Nationalists and the Holocaust: OUN and UPA’s Participation in the Destruction of Ukrainian Jewry, 1941-1944, by John-Paul Himka, makes for very difficult reading.}

{In his authoritative biography of Stepan Bandera (The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist: Fascism, Genocide, and Cult) the historian Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe wrote that after 1991:

Bandera and the Ukrainian revolutionary nationalists again became important elements of western Ukrainian identity. Not only far-right activists but also the mainstream of western Ukrainian society, including high-school teachers and university professors, considered Bandera to be a Ukrainian national hero, a freedom fighter, and a person who should be honored for his struggle against the Soviet Union. The post-Soviet memory politics in Ukraine completely ignored democratic values and did not develop any kind of non-apologetic approach to history. [p. 553]

Rossoliński-Liebe further reports:

By 2009 about thirty Bandera monuments were unveiled in western Ukraine, four Bandera museums were opened, and an unknown number of streets were renamed after him. The Bandera cult that appeared in post-Soviet Ukraine resembles that which the Ukrainian diaspora had practiced during the Cold War. The new enemies of the Banderites became Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians, Russians, democrats, and occasionally Poles, Jews and others. The spectrum of people who practice this cult is very wide. Among the Bandera admirers, one can find on the one hand far-right activists with shaved heads performing the fascist salute during their commemorations, and arguing that the Holocaust was the brightest episode in Ukrainian history, and on the other hand, high-school teachers and university professors. [p. 554]

Heil----Are you Ukrainian government supporters practicing your solute while you falsely embrace the photo shopped images of Putin? Show your brothers and sisters above how you support them on your social media accounts.

{The National Post of Canada reported on March 2, 2022:

Freeland joined several thousand demonstrators at a pro-Ukraine rally in downtown Toronto. In a photo her office subsequently posted on Twitter, Freeland can be seen helping to hold up a red-and-black scarf bearing the slogan “Slava Ukraini” (Glory to Ukraine).

Observers were quick to note that red-and-black were the official colours of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, a nationalist partisan group active during the Second World War.}

Hey Canada! How many of these types our being welcomed into your country? Or going to be when they need a place to escape from their crimes over their.

{The media’s reluctance to undertake an intensive investigation into Freeland’s family connections and the broader connection between the Ukrainian far right and the Canadian government stands in stark contrast to the witch-hunt aimed at suppressing all traces of Russian influence in the cultural life of the country. Earlier this month, the 20-year-old Russian piano virtuoso, Alexander Malofeev—who is in no way responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine—could not go ahead with recitals that had been scheduled in Vancouver and Montreal. A similar purge of Russian cultural influence is underway in the United States and throughout Europe. This degrading campaign—which is the negation of the cultural ties between the United States and Russia that began to flourish in the mid-1950s despite the Cold War—should be seen as a manifestation of the very dangerous political and ideological impulses and motivations that are at work in the present crisis. Far from denouncing and opposing the anti-Russia hysteria, the intellectual and cultural institutions are, for the most part, adapting themselves to it.}

The curtain has been pulled back. The westernized governments can now legitimately be considered the Fourth Reich.

{There is a final criticism that I must make of the webinar. There was no reference in the discussion to the extreme political and social crisis within the United States, as if the domestic situation has absolutely nothing to do with the very aggressive stance taken by the United States. Many serious studies of World War I and World War II have focused on what is known among historians as “Der Primat der Innenpolitik” (The primacy of domestic politics). This interpretation, developed in the early 1930s by the left-wing German historian Eckart Kehr, placed central emphasis on the role of domestic social conflicts on the formulation of foreign policy.}

As the many genuine democratic socialist from Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and Chris hedges work, have revealed through history, when capitalism reaches its last stages of failure, fascism moves in. We're looking straight down its barrel. Our ruling class and their governments are openly supporting it in Ukraine, their medias are attempting to suppress that from us, successfully have many blindly supporting it as they direct it towards their manufactured enemy. As Robert Parry indicated---when we have the American citizenry believing everything we tell them, our perception management campaign will be fulfilled. Congratulations! Done!

{A careful consideration of Kehr’s conceptions—which acquired great influence among subsequent generations of historians—is certainly necessary in analyzing the political motivations of the Biden administration. Since the turn of the decade, the United States has been shaken by two historic crises: (1) the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) the attempted (and nearly successful) coup d’état of January 6, 2021. Both of these events, even when viewed in isolation, have been traumatic experiences.

In just two years, the United States has suffered, at minimum, 1 million deaths due to COVID-19, more than in any American war and, possibly, greater than the total number of deaths suffered by Americans in all US wars. The actual number of fatalities, based on a study of excess deaths, may be far greater.

And worst of all, the United States has proven to be incapable of bringing this crisis to an end. The prioritization of economic interests over the protection of human life has prevented the implementation of the Zero-COVID policy that could have ended the pandemic.

The extreme social, economic and political contradictions, developing within a society plagued by staggering levels of wealth and income inequality, finally exploded on January 6, 2021. The president of the United States attempted to suppress the results of the 2020 election, overthrow the Constitution, and establish himself as an authoritarian dictator. Not since the Civil War has the American political system confronted such a fundamental political challenge. And those who either minimize the significance of the event or claim that the crisis has been overcome are engaged in self-delusion. Biden himself acknowledged on the anniversary of Trump’s attempted coup d’état that it is not guaranteed that American democracy will still exist at the end of this decade.

Is it really implausible to suggest that the interaction of these two crises has played a significant role in the formulation of American foreign policy? Would this be the first time that a government seized upon, and even provoked, an international crisis to deflect attention from intractable domestic problems?}

{In concluding this letter, I must return to a point that I made earlier, that the study of Soviet history is critical to an understanding of the current world situation. Amid the capitalist triumphalism that prevailed in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was much fanciful talk of the “End of History.” Within the former Soviet Union, the equivalent of this self-deluding euphoria was the belief, especially among intellectuals and status-conscious professionals, that the restoration of capitalism would bring untold riches to Russia and a flowering of democracy. The unfulfilled dreams of the 1917 February Revolution would be realized. The bourgeois Provisional Government, overthrown by the Bolsheviks in October, would be reborn. All those with talent, ambition and connections could become either rich entrepreneurs or, at least, members of a new and prosperous middle class. Wherever Marxism had put a minus, the newly minted petty bourgeois now put a plus mark.

The second element of this euphoria was that Russia, having thrown off its revolutionary and utopian strivings, would be a “normal” country, welcomed lovingly into the community of Western nations. References to Lenin’s writings on imperialism, not to mention those of Trotsky, were greeted with giggles. Russia had, at last, come to its senses; and no one took “Marxism-Leninism” seriously anymore. I should add that I encountered the same conceptions among Ukrainian academics that I met in Kyiv.

In any case, these great illusions—in universal capitalist prosperity, a flowering of democracy and the peaceful integration into the world system dominated by the United States—have been totally shattered.

{Putin is seeking to overcome this crisis through thoroughly reactionary and politically bankrupt measures—that is, through a war that is aimed at strengthening the borders of the Russian national state. It is significant that Putin’s war speech began with a denunciation of Lenin, the October Revolution and the establishment of the USSR. Ironically, in his hatred of Marxism and Bolshevism, Putin’s views are aligned completely with his NATO enemies.}

Basically this is the same concept of "progressives" claiming they're going to change the democratic party from within. Putin isn't going to change NATO from within the same strategies as theirs. Just as progressives are a target for the party they've aligned with, Putin's country is a target of NATO.

William_Mary 8 Mar 20
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