Borotba and its cheer-leaders: Putin’s useful idiots

December 23, 2016 at 7:40 pm (apologists and collaborators, CPB, imperialism, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Ukraine)

Image result for picture solidarity anti fascist resistance Ukraine

Above: some useful idiots at a ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ meeting, London 2014. Present to hear a message from Borotba were Richard Brenner (Workers Power), Andrew  Murray (then of the CPB) and representatives of Socialist Action and the RMT.

By Dale Street

Workers Power (now rebranded as Red Flag) hailed them as their “Ukrainian allies” and as “revolutionary socialists” who had taken the lead in “mobilising workers and youth on the streets to defy the neo-liberals and the fascist gangs.”

Scarcely a meeting of the “Campaign in Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine” (SARU) took place without a Skype link to one of their members. They provided “the most moving contributions” to SARU meetings, which were “rightly met with a standing ovation”.

For Socialist Appeal it was “the revolutionary organisation that is playing a leading role in the struggle against fascism in the (sic) Ukraine.” Articles by this “left-wing group” were published on the Socialist Appeal website.

Andrew Murray (formerly of the Communist Party of Britain, but now a member of his local CLP) shared platforms with its members. The Morning Star hailed them as part of the “left-wing forces” fighting back against “the neo-Nazi juggernaut” and the “fascist-coup-installed President Poroshenko”.

But e-mails from the office of Putin aide Vladislav Surkov – dating from 2014 and published by Ukrainian hackers at the close of last year – reveal that leaders of the Ukrainian supposedly-socialist organisation Borotba were nothing more than propagandists for Putin.

According to an article on the Ukrainian “Reft and Light” website (covering the blurring of differences between sections of the right and left internationally):

“This mass of e-mails contain documentary confirmation of the co-operation of all leading figures in Borotba with the Kremlin – or, to be more exact, the work undertaken by Borotba for the Kremlin.”

And the Ukrainian journalist Denis Kazansky writes:

“It is now an established fact that Borotba, the left-wing party of Manchuk, Kirichuk and co., was working for Surkov. They claimed they were combating the oligarchs and big capital. In fact, they were working for oligarchs and big capital – not of Ukraine, but of Russia.”

The copious material released by the hackers contains e-mails sent in the summer of 2014 to Aleksei Chesnakov, a long-standing associate of Surkov with a record of promoting the Kremlin’s politics through media outlets. In 2014 his remit, like that of Surkov, included Ukraine.

Documents attached to the e-mails include lists of journalists and activists whose writings pursued an unremittingly pro-Kremlin line during the still unresolved conflict in Ukraine.

Names on the lists include the Borotba leaders Shapinov, Albu, Manchuk, Kirichuk and Bliuminov, as well as the lesser known Ivan Zelensky (who writes under the name Nikolai Lenivtsyn).

Kirichuk is on a list entitled “High Profile Individuals”. Manchuk and Albu are on the “Not-High-Profile Individuals” list. Shapinov and Bliuminov are on the “Individuals of Medium Effectiveness” list, as too is Zelensky.

The different headings under which the Borotba leaders are grouped are themselves evidence that these are not lists of individuals whose pro-separatist writings had been stumbled across by some petty Kremlin bureaucrat.

In fact, the list which includes Manchuk’s name goes a step further and refers to him as “kustovoi”, meaning, in this context, that Manchuk was a ‘cluster leader’ of the group around him and that he exercised an influence over it.

Some of the e-mails also contain “temniki”: bullet-point prompts about how particular issues should be written about (from a pro-Kremlin point of view). Articles written by Borotba leaders correspond to the “temniki”.

The clearest example are articles by Kirichuck about the shooting down of a civilian plane (by separatists, using Russian-supplied military equipment) in July of 2014. Almost word-for-word Kirichuk repeats four of the eight bullet points in the relevant “temnik”.

Kirichuk’s only innovation is that whereas the final bullet point in the “temnik” proposes drawing a historical analogy with the assassination of the Emperor Franz Ferdinand, Kirichuk prefers to draw an analogy between the conflict in Ukraine and genocide in Rwanda.

One of the documents – of no relevance to Borotba at all – published by the hackers is almost certainly a fake. The rest have been authenticated by experts. The hackers also went to the trouble of publishing copies of the Surkov family’s passports as proof they had hacked the e-mail account of Surkov’s office.

In one sense, the authenticity of the hacked e-mails is almost irrelevant. The e-mails only confirm now what was obvious then.

Throughout 2014 Borotba peddled the Kremlin line on the conflict in Ukraine, even going so far as to organise joint campaigns with overt Russian nationalists (Rodina) and anti-semitic and anti-immigration pan-Slav chauvinists (Slavic Unity).

One (ex-)member of Borotba – Zelensky – has responded to the scandal provoked by the release of the hacked e-mails with a “So what’s all the fuss about?” response:

“Find just one, JUST ONE, article, you bastard, where we breached communism and its ideas, bearing in mind that from the outset, you bastard, we said that the whole fucking Maidan would lead to civil war and the current sorry state of Ukraine.”

“Did we accept donations? Yes, we did. From whom? From everyone. We took donations from everyone, including Kremlin political functionaries. So what?”

“The ‘temniki’ listed the main events of the week, but we explained them in the only way possible for us. So what if it coincided overall with the Kremlin discourse? What all anti-imperialists in the world said (about Ukraine) coincided as well.”

Borotba itself has disappeared. Its paper is no more, and neither is its website. Kirichuk is based in Berlin, Bliuminov is somewhere in Asia, and Shapinov and Albu have found a home for themselves among Russian Stalinist-nostalgics.

Borotba had its moment of glory in 2014. Not in Ukraine, where it was always more of a name than an actual organisation. But on the western European ‘left’, where a plentiful supply of useful idiots boosted its counterfeit ‘anti-fascist’ credentials while ignoring its pro-Russian-imperialist politics.

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Pirani to Stop The War: stop calling warmongers anti-war activists

October 31, 2016 at 9:22 am (anti-fascism, apologists and collaborators, fascism, posted by JD, Putin, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, Stop The War, Ukraine)

Simon Pirani, a long-standing left wing activist and writer,  challenges Stop The War’s support for far right and pro-Putin forces in Ukraine:

Boris Kagarlitsky speaking at “Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine”, 27 August 2014, London

An open letter to the Stop the War coalition

Dear friends,

This is to ask you to think about your organisation’s alliance with Boris Kagarlitsky, the Russian political commentator who supports war in Ukraine.

In a statement of 19 October, the Stop the War Coalition (STW) described Kagarlitsky as an “anti-war activist” and a “leader and organiser” of anti-government protests. The statement, responding to an inaccurate article in the Sunday Times, acknowledged that organisations Kagarlitsky works for are funded by the Kremlin, and claimed that this amounted to only “one grant for research”.

The statement is wrong. It is full of untruths, half-truths and obfuscations. In reality, (1) Kagarlitsky is not an “anti-war activist”, but a supporter of war in eastern Ukraine. (2) Kagarlitsky has been involved in anti-government protests, but since 2014 has become a collaborator with leading ultra-nationalists and fascists, and is reviled by Russian and Ukrainian anti-war activists for that reason. (3) Kagarlitsky has accepted funds from the Kremlin via various channels since at least 2009, and probably since 2005 – not “one grant for research”, but many grants.

I write as a lifelong participant in the labour movement and, for the last 25 years, a researcher of Russian and Ukrainian history, politics and economy. I have no interest in supporting the Sunday Times and its witch-hunts against Jeremy Corbyn. But witch-hunts have to be fought with the truth, and your organisation is not telling the truth. Here are some details on the three points mentioned.

  1. Kagarlitsky is a supporter of war in eastern Ukraine

When Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, Kagarlitsky claimed that there were “no insidious schemes or imperial ambitions” involved. He denounced those in Russia – such as the Open Left alliance who called the annexation a “classic act of imperialist intervention” by the Russian state – for acting “in the name of the west”.

When the eastern Ukrainian separatists took up arms – the vast majority of which were brought in from Russia – in May 2014, Kagarlitsky unequivocally greeted their military action. The editorial board of Rabkor.ru, a site of which Kagarlitsky is the chief editor, stated that there was “no way towards peace [in eastern Ukraine] other than resistance [to the Kyiv government]. If the Russian government is presently supporting this resistance, then this must be used. Never mind that this support is completely inadequate and not especially genuine”.

This statement, headlined “The emptiness of pacifism”, described the flow of armed volunteers from Russia into eastern Ukraine – most of whom were led by fascists and ultranationalists, or organised by the criminals and thugs who rule the Chechen republic – as “the self-organising movement of solidarity with Novorossia [the Russian nationalists’ name for south-eastern Ukraine] on the territory of Russia”.

Kagarlitsky’s writing style is rambling and convoluted, and it is sometimes hard to tell which side of an argument, if any, he is taking. But his support for military action in south-eastern Ukraine has been unambiguous. His implicit criticism of the Russian government – which has provided diplomatic, financial, material and most likely military support for the separatists – has been for not supporting this action strongly enough.

In January this year, another leading author on Rabkor.ru, Vasily Koltashov, published a key strategic statement that argued: “For Russia’s development, and to raise the living standards of working people, what is needed is not peace with the west, but victory over the west in Eurasia. In Ukraine what we need is not a ceasefire, but the liberation of the country and its unification with Russia [i.e. war].” Kagarlitsky declared publicly that he was in “full agreement” with Koltashov.

Analyses of Kagarlitsky’s pro-war view of Ukraine were published in English in 2014, by the Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Zadyraka here and the Polish writer Marek Zbigniew Kowalewski here.

Do you really think it is OK for the so-called “Stop the War” campaign to work with a commentator who has so clearly supported one side in a military conflict that has visited ruin on working-class communities and claimed more than 9000 lives?

  1. Kagarlitsky collaborates with leading ultra-nationalists and fascists

Kagarlitsky has at least since 2014 collaborated politically with Russian ultra-nationalists and fascists. He participated in a meeting of the “Florian Geyer” club, headed by the rightwing Islamist Geydar Dzhemal and frequented by Russian fascists. He was photographed sharing a meal and drink with Alexei Belyaev-Gintovt, a prominent member of Aleksandr Dugin’s International Eurasian Movement; Yevgeny Zhilin, leader of a far-right militia; and other ultra-nationalist politicians. The Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements (IGSO), headed by Kagarlitsky, co-organised a conference in Crimea in July 2014 with the extreme nationalist “New Rus” organisation (which hypocritically called for “peace” in Ukraine but made no mention of military action by the Russian-supported separatists). Kagarlitsky’s Rabkor.ru web site has regularly featured sympathetic reports of prominent fascists and ultra-right-wing mercenaries active in eastern Ukraine (recent examples here, here and here).

To my mind, Kagarlitsky’s links with people and organisations who support Dugin are truly shocking. Dugin is one of the most prominent advocates of “neo-Eurasianism”, a militarist and fascist-type ideology. (Academic writers on the Russian far right consider him to be fascist, rather than ultranationalist. See here.)

In 2014 Dugin famously called for the south-eastern Ukrainian separatists to “kill, kill and kill” their enemies. Just this month – in an article on one of his English-language web sites that featured Russian fascists doing military training – Dugin reiterated: “War with Ukraine is inevitable, but so far we have done only half of the task. […] We have united with Crimea, we have provided help to Novorossiya, but we didn’t liberate Novorossiya.”

Kagarlitsky also writes on the site, which is full of militaristic imagery, and has commented approvingly about the movement behind Donald Trump there (e.g. “the defeat of financial capital [i.e. Hillary Clinton], no matter who brings it about [in the US election], would open a new era in the development of Western society, inevitably strengthening the working class, and reviving its organizations”, etc).

Kagarlitsky’s dramatic turn to the right is abhored by most Russian anti-fascist, anti-war and socialist activists, and those who worked with him in the past now do not. For example your statement claims that his IGSO institute works most closely with the Confederation of Free Trade Unions (KTR). But friends who are active in the KTR have contacted me to say that there has been little contact since 2007; that from the moment in 2014 that Kagarlitsky declared support for Russia’s activities in eastern Ukraine they have broken off all contact with him; and that neither Kagarlitsky nor any other IGSO participant takes any part in the unions’ activities.

My question to supporters of STW is: it turns my stomach to see someone who claims to be a socialist collaborating with the likes of Dugin. Doesn’t it turn yours?

  1. Kagarlitsky’s organisations have accepted funds from the Kremlin not once, but repeatedly.

Your statement implies that the financial support given by the Russian state to Kagarlitsky’s organisations was a one-off. It was not.

In 2008-09, reports and rumours circulated among left-wing Russians that Kagarlitsky’s Rabkor.ru site was being financed by the Kremlin. A lengthy article by an investigative journalist showed that funding and support for the site was arranged with the help of Vadim Gorshenin, a Kremlin-connected media manager who ran (and still runs) the pro-government Pravda.ru.

I heard about these reports in March 2010. Having been acquainted with Kagarlitsky since 1990, and having in 2009 had contact with him after a long gap, I emailed him to say that “various people, Russians and foreigners who know Russia, have said to me that Rabkor.ru is financed by the Kremlin, that it’s a Surkov project [i.e. inspired by the leading Putin ideologue, then deputy head of the presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov], and so on”. I said that I didn’t believe rumours and wanted to ask him for his comments.

His answer started: “Rabkor is financed from money that IGSO has managed to raised from various grants. We received funds from the Rosa Luxemburg foundation, from the Ebert fund, and also from the Soyuz fund, which is considered to be pro-Kremlin. And in November 2009 we received a grant from the Civic Chamber, which we use to rent an office. We never hid this, and essentially the source of the rumours is speculation about evidence that we ourselves gave completely publicly. We receive the grants for research and publications or seminars based on it, and then we re-distribute the amounts. And a condition for cooperation with any funds, including foreign ones, is non-interference with the political line of IGSO and Rabkor.”

I kept the text of this email exchange (downloadable here). I also replied to Kagarlitsky that I believed that taking funds from such state bodies as the Civic Chamber – set up with the explicit purpose of strengthening government influence over civil society – was extremely problematic. His response, if I remember correctly, was to express disappointment that his organisations had not been better supported by their collaborators in the west, and that it was after all necessary to raise funds from somewhere. I thought that further correspondence was pointless.

The point about this now is that, when STW states that Kagarlitsky’s organisation “has received one grant for research into trade unions from a government body, but is an independent NGO”, this is not true. His organisations received money from the Kremlin since before 2005 (according to Stringer.ru); from some time before 2009 from the Kremlin via the state’s Civic Chamber and the “pro-Kremlin” (Kagarlitsky’s words) Soyuz fund (according to Kagarlitsky’s email to me); and in 2013-14 (according to the STW web site).

My question to STW supporters is: given Kagarlitsky’s support for Russian action in eastern Ukraine, and his closeness to the ultranationalist Dugin do you not think that STW should ask Kagarlitsky to clarify the extent of the Kremlin’s financial support for his projects? And don’t you think that it’s important to tell the truth about these things on the STW web site?

These are not side issues. The question of how the anti-war movement relates to the Russian state, and to the ultranationalists and fascists in its shadow, is central. If it doesn’t get this right, it is not an anti-war movement at all.

If STW supporters or anyone else want to discuss the issues, please email me at simonpirani[at]gmail.com.

Best wishes,

Simon Pirani.

26 October 2016.

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Ukraine and the EU – London meeting organised

June 1, 2016 at 9:18 am (campaigning, Europe, Human rights, liberation, Paul Canning, solidarity, Ukraine)

By Paul Canning (cross-posted from his blog)

London will have an opportunity June 10 to hear and question a prominent Ukrainian journalist on the European Union and Ukraine.

Co-founder of Hromadske International and and 2016 fellow at FCO’s International Leaders Programme Maxim Eristavi will be discussing if we are prepared for Ukraine’s arriving into Europe “whether Europeans want that or not.” Eristavi will debunk popular misconceptions about Ukraine and Eastern Europe and expose the shortcomings of European policy towards this region.

Ukraine has become an issue in the EU Referendum campaign as a number of leading ‘Brexiters’, such as Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, have claimed that the Union is somehow responsible for the war in that Eastern European country. The latter is also a popular narrative used by ruling elites in Russia.

When Johnson’s remarks hit the headlines last month I got so angry at the rubbish I was seeing on social media about Ukraine that I did a tweet series and Storified it.

This event provides an opportunity to hear from someone who was there during Ukraine’s ‘Revolution of Dignity’, as Eristavi documented in ‘What happened on the Maidan in Kiev?‘ (video after the jump).

Eristavi on the Maidan

The event is at 7pm, June 10 at the London Ukrainian Club, 154 Holland Park Ave, London W11 4UH.

You don’t need to register – just turn up!

Google Maps: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5059188,-0.2108675,15z *NOTE* The nearest underground station, Holland Park, is closed at the moment. Use Shepherd’s Bush or Notting Hill Gate.

Maxim Eristavi biography

Civil rights advocate, media professional and writer. Co-founder of Hromadske International.

One of the most famous English-speaking journalists and civil rights advocates working and based in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, He specializes in new media expertise, politics, breaking news coverage and civil rights advocacy.

Featured as contributor to:

BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera America, HuffPost TV, CTV, ITN News, the Daily Beast, Fusion, CJR Magazine, Reuters, Politico, The New Republic and Foreign Policy.

Essential Twitter source for Ukraine, according to Mashable, Bild, CTV and The New York Times.

He is the only openly gay journalist in Ukraine and has been an outspoken voice in raising civil rights issues of the region abroad. In October 2015 he was featured among 10 most prominent LGBTI people in Ukraine during the first ever queer project at the country’s biggest modern art center, The Pinchuk Art Center.

Eristavi is a 2015 Poynter fellow at Yale University with a focus on informational wars and pan-regional LGBTI civil rights movements. He is also a 2016 Fellow at International Leadership Program, UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and a 2016-2017 fellow at Millennium Leadership Program, Atlantic Council.

See also:

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Wilders, Farage help give Putin a victory against the people of Ukraine

April 7, 2016 at 9:38 pm (Andrew Coates, apologists and collaborators, Europe, fascism, immigration, Jim D, populism, Racism, Ukraine)


Above: Farage backs Putin’s line on Ukraine – on Putin’s very own TV channel

“More worrying, though, is the UKIP line supporting Putin and claiming that a trade agreement with Ukraine is somehow an example of EU aggression. It takes breathtaking chutzpah to claim that non-exclusive trade constitutes aggression, while Russia is ‘only defending itself’ when it annexes part of the territory of its neighbour, supports violent separatists in another part and tries to prevent a sovereign country from choosing to trade with its neighbours.

“UKIP’s pro-Putin line has been aped by other far-right parties in Europe. In return, Putin has given support to several of them. It is a truly worrying trend” – Labour MEP Richard Corbett in September 2014 .

The right wing fanatics and racists who are the driving force behind the anti-EU movement in Europe and Britain, have scored a victory on behalf of their hero and (in some cases) financial sponsor Vladimir Putin.

Dutch voters have voted against an EU trade agreement with Ukraine, and in doing so have handed Putin a propaganda victory and stabbed the Ukrainians in the back: it is the same draft agreement that sparked pro-EU protests in Kiev, sending the authoritarian Kremlin stooge Viktor Yunukovych into exile in Russia in February 2014.

Farage helped garner support for the referendum in the first place, and has a long record of “admiring” Putin and supporting his stance on Ukraine.

The racist anti-immigration right winger Geert Wilders has worked with Farage throughout, emphasising the alleged threat of immigration from Ukraine and an expansion eastwards of the EU:  whether these racist reactionaries are actually in the pay of Putin (as are, for sure, the French Front National and the Hungarian anti-Semitic Jabbik party) is not the real issue: paid or unpaid, these right wing fanatics and racists are doing Putin’s bidding. And, in the Netherlands, as in Britain, some idiot-leftists have gone along with it, as Comrade Coatesy explains here). The people of Ukraine, who courageously rose up against corrupt rule in 2014, are the victims of ultra-right Putin-fans like Farage and Wilders.

Serious leftists in the UK need to learn our lessons from this debacle.

Above: this poster, depicting Wilders and Putin in a tender moment, was banned from railway stations and bus shelters in the Netherlands. It was designed by the youth wing of the Netherlands’ Labour Party

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NUM answers smears over Ukraine solidarity

February 5, 2016 at 3:42 pm (internationalism, posted by JD, Russia, solidarity, stalinism, Ukraine, unions, workers)

NUM logo.png

Statement from the NUM (also published, in extended form, as a letter in the current issue of the Weekly Worker):

CONDEMN THE DEFAMATION OF NUM SOLIDARITY WITH UKRANIAN MINERS

The National Union of Mineworkers is disturbed by the smears against our union regarding our approach to the conflict in Ukraine. These smears have been promoted mainly by elements on the outskirts of the labour movement. Sadly, some who should know better have been willing to give air to such defamation. We at the NUM have long experience of those who would seek to sow divisions and discredit us and we have a proven record of defending ourselves when necessary.

It is shamefully claimed the NUM has joined the camp of our enemies and abandoned our history of working class internationalism. Some even asserting we have crossed into the same camp as fascists and taken the line of Nato. Let us set the record straight.

The NUM has not based its response to the Ukraine crisis on what the British or Russian media tell us. We have not been charmed by the opportunity to sit in their TV studios and accept without question their government’s line. Instead we naturally turned to our fellow miners’ unions, with whom we have a friendship stretching back decades: the Trade Union of the Coal Mining Industry (PRUP) and the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NPGU). The very first statement issued by the NUM executive committee was clear:

“The NUM supports the international principle of self-determination and expresses its support to our brothers and sisters in the miners’ union, PRUP, who are calling for all interference from outside Ukraine to stop. The NUM calls for a peaceful resolution to the current issues facing the people of Ukraine and our thoughts are with all the miners in the Ukraine, who we regard as our friends.”

During some of the worst fighting in Ukraine, we hosted a delegation of miners at the Durham Miners Gala in 2014 that were warmly received, yet our hospitality is now denigrated by assertions they were not miners, but national union officials from Kiev. This is untrue. The delegation was from Donbas and the speaker that addressed the gala was chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk branch of PRUP.

The NUM has sent two delegations to Ukraine; we have visited industrial areas, met national union officials, local branches and rank-and-file miners. We have also met with activists of the wider labour movement. The NUM attended and addressed the joint union congress of Miners of Ukraine on April 21. We are proud to have taken part in a protest by thousands of miners in defiance of riot police at the parliament in Kiev against pit closures.

Those attacking the NUM seek to question the legitimacy of the Ukrainian trade unions. Yet we have seen with our own eyes that the miners’ unions are not slavishly following the oligarchs and the government. They are resisting as best they can pit closures, austerity and anti-union laws. The NUM is being attacked because we support fellow trade unions that appeal for solidarity instead of the armed forces that hold a third of the territory in Donbas. Despite the wishful thinking of some, Putin’s Russia is not sponsoring a revived 1917-style soviet republic or a Spain of 1936. It is clear the takeover in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk area was initiated by rival oligarchs and Russia out of their own vested interests. In those areas the existing labour movement has been suppressed, trade unionists have been kidnapped, tortured and even murdered. This is common knowledge and has been reported to the international trade union movement repeatedly.

We have given our support to the Ukrainian labour movement in supporting the unity of Ukraine and of the working people of Ukraine, opposing the undemocratic division of Ukraine by force, which has been a humanitarian and economic catastrophe; it has divided working people and their labour movement.

At no time has the NUM given support to either Russian or Ukrainian far-right forces active in Ukraine – our solidarity is first and foremost with the labour movement. The NUM endorses the calls by the Ukrainian trade unions for justice for victims of the attacks on both the Kiev and Odessa trade union buildings, and of those killed on the Malaysian airline.

The situation was summed up in an address by the Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine to the conference of its sister union, Aslef, that “Ukraine has been squeezed between an aggressive power in our east and neoliberal economic policies from the west. The working people of Ukraine are suffering from both the terrible cost of war and of austerity.” NUM shares the view that it is for the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, free from external intervention from Russian or western imperialism. That is, we support the achievement of peace through self-determination, solidarity and social justice.

National Union of Mineworkers
Barnsley

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Putin: a murderous authoritarian beloved of the far-right (and some on the “left”)

January 28, 2016 at 5:52 pm (apologists and collaborators, grovelling, Guardian, homophobia, Human rights, imperialism, murder, populism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, thuggery, Ukraine)

seumas milne at rally

Seumas Milne: Putin apologist (Image: Copyright 2014 Mark Kerrison)

Opposition to Putin and his ultra-reactionary regime ought to be second nature for self-proclaimed leftists. Unfortunately, it isn’t: the Morning Star and former Guardian columnist (now a senior adviser to Corbyn) Seumas Milne, for instance, have a long record of defending and justifying Putin, especially (but not only) with regard to Russian imperialism in Ukraine.

So it was a welcome development when Guardian columnist Owen Jones recently admonished certain (unnamed) sections of the left for remaining silent about the reactionary nature of Putin’s regime. Even so, Jones’s piece was hedged about with embarrassed apologetics designed to appease the pro-Putin “left” and to excuse in advance his own half-hearted apostasy:

“Yes, there is something rather absurd about the baiting of the anti-war left for not protesting against, say, Putin or North Korea. The baiters are always free to organise their own demonstration (I would be happy to join), and protest movements can only realistically aspire to put pressure on governments at home, whether it be on domestic policies or alliances with human rights abusers abroad (whether that be, say, the head-chopping Saudi exporters of extremism, or Israel’s occupation of Palestine). In democracies, protests that echo the official line of governments are rare. If the west was actively cheering Putin on and arming him to the teeth, we might expect more vociferous opposition.”

Anne Field, writing in the present issue of Solidarity, is more straightforward:

Putin: a model of reactionary politics

The report of Britain’s official Owen Inquiry into the 2006 murder of former Russian security service agent Alexander Litvinenko was published on 21 January. It attributed responsibility for the murder to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Putin ruled Russia as its President from 2000 to 2008. Barred by the constitution from seeking a third successive term of office, Putin was nominally Prime Minister between 2008 and 2012. In reality, he remained the ultimate source of authority in Russia. Amid widespread allegations of ballot-rigging, Putin was re-elected President for six years in 2012. (The presidential term of office had been increased from four to six years while Putin was Prime Minister). He is already on record as saying that he will seek re-election in 2018.

From the outset Putin’s rule has been based on “siloviki” (strongmen): former KGB agents and serving agents of the police and the FSB (the Russian successor to the KGB), and former and serving military commanders. According to a survey carried out by Olga Kryshtanovskaya in 2004, “siloviki” constituted around 25% of Russia’s political elite, and over 50% of Putin’s inner circle. Their influence has continued to grow since then. Putin himself is a former KGB agent. But, as Kryshtanovskaya wrote: “Putin brought ‘siloviki’ with him. But that’s not enough to understand the situation. The whole political class wished them to come. There was a need of a strong arm, capable from point of view of the elite to establish order in the country.”

One of Putin’s first acts was to incorporate Russia’s 89 regions into seven new federal districts. The districts are run by appointees personally selected by Putin as his representatives. They have control over the armed forces, the budgets and activities of the regional governors in their districts.

Five of the first seven appointees were “siloviki”. At the same time Putin weakened the powers of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament with representation from the country’s different regions. Putin also scrapped the election of regional governors (they too were to be personally appointed by Putin) and empowered local legislatures (dominated in practice by Putin’s supporters) to sack popularly elected mayors. Over the past decade and a half potential sources of opposition to Putin’s rule in civil society have been attacked, one after another. The media empires run by the oligarchs Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky were both effectively taken over by Putin and their owners forced to flee Russia. Dissident journalists have been sacked, programmes critical of Putin have been taken off the air, and attempts to create independent television channels blocked by the government. The only surviving independent channel is now run from an apartment in Moscow.

Under a law signed off by Putin in 2014, international organisations, foreigners and Russians with dual citizenship will be banned from owning mass media outlets by the end of 2016. Its main target is Vedomosti, jointly published by the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. The internet in Russia is controlled by the government agency Roskomnadzor, created in 2012. Russian bloggers with 3,000 or more visitors a day have to register with Roskomnadzor, reveal their identities, and verify the accuracy of their blogs. Roskomnadzor can also block websites which “refuse to follow Russian laws”, which carry “extremist” political content, or which “encourage illegal activities and participation in public events held in violation of the established order.” Foreign-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs), described by Putin as “jackals” and “Judases”, have been singled out for repressive legislation. They are required to register as “foreign agents”, submit quarterly reports on their funds and resources, and submit six-monthly reports on their personnel and activities. They are also subject to mandatory audits and can be fined for publishing anything not described as having been published by “a foreign agent”.

In the spring of 2013 alone, 2,000 NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were raided by government authorities. After a wave of protests at Putin’s decision to seek re-election as President in 2012, he increased fines for taking part in unauthorised protests to 300,000 rubles, and fines for organising such protests to a million rubles. In 2014 Putin ramped up the penalties yet again. Repeated participation in unauthorised protests now attracts a penalty of up to a million rubles and up to five years of forced labour or prison. A law passed in 2013 banned the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors”. Breaches of the law could result in fines or imprisonment. The following year another law banned all swearwords in films, on television and in theatre performances. And last year new rules for licencing the showing of films were introduced, banning films which “defile the national culture, pose a threat to national unity, and undermine the foundations of the constitutional order.”

Other laws have obstructed the registration of “non-indigenous religions” and prevented them from acquiring land and building permits. This has benefited the religious monopoly enjoyed by the Russian Orthodox Church, described by Putin as one of the two “pillars” of national and state security. The other “pillar” is nuclear deterrence. Reflecting Putin’s own views on Stalin (“his legacy cannot be judged in black and white”), Russia adopted Stalin’s national anthem (with different lyrics) in 2000, and Russian textbooks now explain that while the Stalinist and post-Stalinist USSR was not a democracy, it was “an example for millions of people around the world of the best and fairest society.” Putin has also regularly contrasted his authoritarian conservatism with western “decadence”, denouncing the west as “genderless and infertile” and guilty of “the destruction of traditional values from the top.”

This has provided a basis for political alliances between Putin and parties of the European far right: the French National Front, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Bulgarian Attack, the Slovak People’s Party, and various far-right parties in Germany. Putin’s endorsement of Donald Trump for US president last month was only a logical development of his support for political reaction at an international level. Putin’s record since 2000 has not been one of a failed attempt to establish a functioning democracy after the chaos and corruption of the 1990s. It is a record of success in establishing an authoritarian regime which has promoted itself as a model for far-right movements and regimes round the world. And it is a record regularly punctuated by the physical elimination of Putin’s critics and opponents: the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the anti-corruption campaigner Sergei Magnitsky, and the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, as well as Litvinenko.

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‘Stop the War’ subjected to scrutiny and challenge from the left: they don’t like it

December 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm (apologists and collaborators, genocide, Human rights, Libya, Middle East, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, Syria, Ukraine)

stopthewarA quite intense and heated debate has been taking place over at Left Futures, concerning the political basis of the Stop the War Coalition, and the motives of those who criticise it from the left. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that the StWC has been subjected to sustained criticism from the left – and they do not like it, or come of it well, having tried and failed with their usual line that all criticism is a matter of right-wing conspiracies/”smears”/ and “quotations from articles taken out of context”, etc, etc.

The relevant articles and btl comments at Left Futures can be found here, here and (most recently) here. I would urge anyone interested in the question of western intervention and “imperialism” to take the trouble to read all three articles, and the btl debates that have followed, the most recent of which is still continuing.

I have been particularly impressed by the btl contributions of one John Penney: I do not know Comrade Penney and do not have his permission to republish his most recent contribution (below) in response to a StW apologist (“James”) who’d tried to defend StW’s unprincipled alliances with supporters of Assad, Gaddafi, Milosevic, Putin and other totalitarians, dictators and genociders by claiming StW “is not an international group, it is a single issue national organisation against UK military action, end of.”

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The cynicism and sophistry of Stop the War and its apologists

By John Penney

This is the purest, cynical, sophistry, James, as I’m sure you are very well aware. (though I may be wrong – you could just be a naïve dupe). CND can indeed be a “single issue campaign” , and not be implicated in turning a blind eye to mass murder .

Unfortunately in the complex multi-sided cauldron of the Middle East it is not morally or politically possible to blithely claim that StWC is “only concerned with opposing UK military action” , and claim that this leaves it’s organisational hands clean of the consequences of this cod pacifist position. The Kurds in particular, but also sundry other minorities facing enslavement and mass murder by the Daesh barbarians (and proxies of Turkish and Saudi regional imperialism) do require arms and close air support to fight off the better armed , death-loving fanatics of Daesh. It is purely a tactical issue as to where the Kurds and others get this military support. Simply having a blanket “no to any UK involvement” position is actually directly campaigning to leave the Kurds and other minorities to be slaughtered by Daesh. That is the direct consequence of the current unconditional StW campaigning demand.

Of course we’ve been here repeatedly before – in the case of sections of the Left blindly campaigning to stop NATO intervening in both Bosnia and Kosovo – to end the huge scale genocide being perpetrated by the ( supposedly “socialist” ?) Serbian regime. Again sections of the Left, 25 years ago, campaigned against the setting up, of a No Fly Zone in Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from the then murderous campaign being waged by Saddam Hussein. In all three cases NATO intervention simply did quite evidently save hundreds of thousands of lives. Simply opposing all Western intervention as a matter of unconditional principle is schoolboy-level political posturing. This doesn’t for a moment alter the fact that NATO is the military arm of Western Imperialism – of course it is. However the Left needs to be more tactically flexible, and willing to prioritise and balance the real needs of masses of people in real peril, against the holding of inflexible political postures. For someone obviously as lost in the political maze of Stalinist political models as you evidently are , James, a concept which I don’t expect you are even able to imagine.

But then you probably actually know this quite well and are simply playing semantic games – to cover up your, and StWC’s leadership’s actual , undeclared, underlying, support for the Assad regime and its Russian imperialist backers. That is certainly the CPB member , and now new Chairman of StWC’s [Andrew Murray – JD] obvious personal political position.

Your blanket “opposition to NATO” is simply another cover for the ludicrously simplistic soviet-era politics which views ONLY US/Western imperialism as a barrier to socialist progress – with a range of bestial tyrannies like Iran, Assad’s Syria, Saddam’s Iraq, and Gaddafi’s Libya getting a “free pass” as members of some bogus “axis of Resistance”.

Your cynical sophistry is truly stomach churning. StW today is a cynically manipulative movement, playing on naïve general pacifist anti war sentiments , to promote the narrow sectarian interests of a StW leadership coalition of Islamic fundamentalist appeasers and supporters of the Assad regime and Russian imperialism – not by any means a “single issue campaign”.

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose the current , purely symbolic, tiny air intervention of the UK in Syria. Its total ineffectiveness and total failure to recognise and tackle the vital huge support for Daesh coming from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, for one. But to object purely on a cod pacifist basis – and ignoring the murderous role of Assad and the Russians, is to be a stooge of these regimes – not proud evidence of being a clean hands “single issue” campaign.

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When Stop The War encourages kids to go to war … and other true tales

December 15, 2015 at 3:35 pm (anti-fascism, Human rights, imperialism, Paul Canning, reactionay "anti-imperialism", reblogged, Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, thuggery, truth, Ukraine)

By Paul Canning


Book by STWC leader Andrew Murray. Cover picture shows the burning trade union building in Odessa “where 40 people died after supporters of the Kiev putsch government, Right Sektor activists and Chernomorets football ultras attacked.”

The past two weeks has seen a unprecedented amount of attention on the Stop The War Coalition (STWC), because of their association with the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Endless press stories and media appearances for a leadership under siege.

The STWC response to the spotlight has been to label every criticism a ‘smear’ or a ‘lie’, however it has also been to engage in some tragic PR tactics. When the focus has shifted onto what they publish on their website the STWC response has been to start cleansing the website – and firing the poor Web Editor.

At the instigation of ‘Soupy’ a blog has been set up to cover what STWC are trying to hide or may be about to try to hide.

The Real Stop The War launched at the weekend and here is the content on Ukraine which I contributed.

When Stop The War directs kids to war

The STWC website has a number of posts about Ukraine,. The most egregious by far are by John Pilger.

Pilger methodically repeats a series of Kremlin war propaganda* memes: That the 2014 Revolution of Dignity was a fascist coup (see the response to this pap by Ukrainian socialists and anarchists I link to in my post on Corbyn’s Ukraine fantasies); That there were pogroms against Russian speakers – a line lifted from Putin himself and a vicious fantasy.

The idea of NATO ‘expanding Eastwards’ and ‘threatening Russia’ – central to Pilger but also STWC more widely- not only ignores the agency of Eastern Europeans but also indulges one of the central myths used by Russia’s imperial rulers to maintain their rule.

It’s his post on the so-called ‘Odessa massacre’ that is the most dangerous. The violent events of May 2, 2014 were immediately seized on by Russia to paint Ukraine as fascist, Russia even toured exhibitions around Europe. Citizen investigations have shown that what happened was nothing like Russia says (and Pilger loyally repeats).

Among the mountain of falsehoods, Pilger includes the supposed eyewitness testimony of a doctor. This lie was very quickly debunked as Kremlin disinformation. There’s a weasel note on the post, copied from The Guardian, which fails to say that this information has been proven false.

The May 2 events have been widely used as propaganda and have led to a number of left-wingers (including Brits) traveling to Ukraine to ‘fight the fascists’. In reality they have arrived in ‘Republics’ where actual fascists wield power, anti-Semitism is endemic, homosexuality is illegal as are free trade unions and humanitarian agencies are banned because they might ‘foment counter-revolution’.

Those thug ‘Republics’ are backed by STWC leaders Lindsey German and Andrew Murray. They, along with Pilger, back war on ‘fascist’ Ukraine and couldn’t care less for the fate of any mugs encouraged by their website to participate.

*See this fantastic Lithuanian documentary for more on Russia’s war propaganda machine (in English).

See Also:

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Putin’s plan is obvious: to boost Assad *and* Isis

October 10, 2015 at 1:56 pm (Guardian, imperialism, islamism, Jim D, Middle East, New Statesman, Russia, Syria, thuggery, tragedy, Ukraine, war)

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to speak at a Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights meeting in the Grand Kremlin Palace on Oct. 1, 2015, in Moscow, Russia.

Putin arrives to speak at a meeting in the Grand Kremlin Palace 

Commentators in the mainstream media generally seem unclear about Putin’s strategic objective in Syria – some even claim he hasn’t really got one. Putin, they say, is a brilliant tactician but a poor strategist: keeping the west guessing by springing surprises (as in Eastern Ukraine) is an end in itself, but he has no long-term game plan.

Julian Borger, in a quite well-informed piece in yesterday’s Guardian subscribes to this view, noting that

“What appears to be unfolding goes beyond stabilising Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It looks like an effort, in coordination with Syrian and Iranian-backed ground troops, to inflict a lasting military defeat on the rebel coalition which had succeeded in carving out a growing patch of territory in the north-east.

“Although conducted under the banner of a campaign against Islamic State, the evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of Russian targets have been non-Isis groups, some of them supported by the US, others by Turkey and the Gulf states”

This, you would have thought, gives us a very strong clue as to what Putin’s objective is, but Borger doesn’t seem to see it, concluding his piece thus:

“Putin’s mastery of surprise has put him in the driving seat, but there is little sign so far he knows where he’s going.”

Oh no? I should have thought it’s obvious: destroy the democratic non-Isis opposition forces so that the only significant forces in Syria are Assad and ISIS, thus facing the west with a stark choice, based upon the facts on the ground, as created by Russian imperialism: Assad or Isis? And to fight Isis, you’ll have to do a deal with me, on my terms. It has been reported by a credible source that to achieve this end, Putin has been boosting Isis by encouraging radicalised Russian Muslims to travel to Syria

Mark Leonard, in the current New Statesman spells it out in an excellent article that’s not yet available online (I’ll provide a link when it is). Here’s a key section:

Vladamir Putin’s military intervention is is less about defeating Isis than about establishing himself as the ultimate counter-revolutionary leader.

There is a parallel between Putin’s plans for Syria and the long war he fought in Chechnya from 1999 to 2009. The first war in Chechnya, from 1994 to 1996, was between a moderate, largely secular opposition and the Russian state.

In order to win the second conflict, however, the Kremlin started to marginalise the moderates – starting with the legitimate president Aslan Maskhadov – while at the same time helping the factions that did not obey Maskhadov, and which committed kidnappings and were linked to the Middle East. Then, after the 9/11 attacks, Putin sold the Chechnya war to the west as “a common struggle with Islamic terrorism.” In Syria, a similar dynamic was already in motion – Islamist groups having gained the upper hand over the moderate rebels of the Free Syrian Army who helped launch the revolution in 2011 – but now Putin is accelerating it, using familiar tactics.

Russian planes have been targeting all of the anti-Assad groups to ensure that there is no strong, non-ISIS opposition. At the same time it appears as though Moscow has been actively helping Isis to swell its ranks. A report in the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta claimed  that officers of Putin’s FSB (state security) have encouraged radicalised Muslims from Russia, and particularly the North Caucasus, to go to Syria, opening a “green channel” for travel that has made it possible for at least 2,400 fighters to make the journey (another 2,600 jihadis from central Asia are also believed to be in Syria). The newspaper claims that Russian agents are actively handing out special passports to jihadis to make it easier for them to travel.

As for Putin’s underlying -“philosophical” if you like – motivation, Leonard is equally clear and (for me, at least) convincing:

His biggest fear, I think, is not of colour revolutions in Damascus, nor even in Kyiv. It is of one taking place in Moscow. Putin is still haunted by the winter protests of 2012 that were provoked by his return to the Kremlin as president for a third term.

Much of his foreign policy since has been driven by this experience. In February 2014, when Yanukovych was hounded into exile by protesters in Ukraine, Putin feared he could be vulnerable. If his Syrian gamble does pay off, it might just force the west to realise the benefits of autocratic stability.

NB: this confirms my analysis: ‘Isis seizes ground from Aleppo rebels under cover of Russian airstrikes’.

Paul Canning: ‘Russia painting Crimea’s Tatars as ‘ISIS supporters”

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Donbas can starve say Russian-backed ‘rebel’ leaders

September 28, 2015 at 5:47 pm (Cross-post, national liberation, Paul Canning, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, thuggery, Ukraine)

By Paul Canning (cross-posted from his blog):

Last winter there were some reports that people had starved to death in Eastern Ukraine. The reason was that humanitarian aid was being stolen by the criminals who run the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR).The insidiousness of Russian propaganda is shown by what you’ll find if you look for that information, which is widespread Western media reports of deaths being blamed on Ukraine and not the ‘rebels’. This is because Ukraine stopped social payments and because some truck convoys were blocked.

That humanitarian aid to the Donbas was being stolen was the claim of former rebel leader Igor Girkin on Russian TV. Another rebel commander, Pavel Dremov, said that only one in ten of Russian aid convoys actually reached the people. Trucks supposedly delivering aid through Ukrainian checkpoints have been found to be carrying alcohol instead.

International agencies operating in the Donbas have come under increasing pressure. Monitors from the OSCE, there because of agreements signed by the ‘rebels’ and by Russia, have been harassed and had their vehicles destroyed. In April the International Rescue Committee, which looks after refugees, was expelled after being kidnapped and accused of ‘spying’. Aid from the European Union that does get through has been repackaged to appear to come from the ‘republics’.

Now, just weeks before temperatures plunge, the rebels have expelled every single international aid body bar the Red Cross – and Russian groups. This includes the United Nations and Médecins Sans Frontières. The Red Cross may be next given that they have been harassed in the past.

According to the UN, this is the situation in Luhansk:

Sick children deprived of essential medications, patients forced to undergo surgery without anesthesia, and food prices so high that many residents can’t afford to eat properly.

The UN also said that when the ‘rebels’ switched pension payments to rubles they “duped” pensioners by rigging the exchange rate.

Said the UN’s Stephen O’Brien:

Some 150,000 people are not receiving monthly food distributions, 1.3 million people’s access to water is at risk, and more than 30,000 people have not received shelter materials and household items they urgently need.

Those most at risk are in the villages and small towns, especially in the east. Well away from Donetsk itself, so unlikely to be seen by Western journalists. Much trumpeted Russian humanitarian aid convoys have time and again been found instead to contain weapons.

So why are the ‘rebels doing this? According to the newspaper News of Donbass it is because of “a new strategy for the external security and counter external and internal threats.” Specifically a “threat posed by these counter-revolution within the republic.”

Just let that sink in. So because of politics, because of ideology, because of paranoia their ‘people’ can be sacrificed? 

The mentality that ‘foreign’ organisations must be a threat of course comes from Russia, where numerous human rights and even scientific groups have been effectively closed down after being labeled as ‘foreign agents’. It is also indulged by many in the West who think that Russia is ‘surrounded’ and at risk of a Western supported ‘colour revolution’. Russian TV (all the people in the Donbas are allowed) is devoted to feeding this paranoia so of course a benign humanitarian group like Doctors Without Borders cannot be what the sane people reading this blog post see it as. No, it must be peddling ‘illegal psychotropic drugs’!

But these are the lunatics that the likes of Unite’s Andrew Murray, the RMT union and Stop The War Coalition’s Lindsey German (and many, many others) are supporting. So called ‘anti fascists’ who think the UN will foment counter revolution and who are prepared to see their ‘citizens’ starve or die in agony, the weakest among them first.  Thousands will die because of this decision.

It is not like there has not been fair warning aplenty before but this should be the final straw. ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ should shut up shop and anyone on the left who continues to back these people deserves to be shunned. 

Edited to add: KHRPG reports that:

Ukrainian billionnaire Renat Akhmetov’s humanitarian aid is also not affected by the ban.  Jock Mendoza-Wilson from Akhmetov’s Foundation is reported to have suggested that the militants are hoping to receive humanitarian aid from Western countries via Russia.  His idea is that the aid would be presented as though from Russia.  It seems difficult to believe that western agencies would agree to this, especially given that they would be in breach of Ukraine’s law on temporarily occupied territory if they entered such territory from Russia, without Ukraine’s permission.

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