Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Ukraine & The Other Ukraine

The Militant's John Studer reports on the circumstances in Ukraine in both the March 17th and March 24th issues. Regarding the demonstrations in Maidan Square leading up to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, he writes
Thousands remain mobilized in Independence Square in central Kiev. They are determined to place their stamp on political developments following the overthrow of Moscow-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Feb. 22. 
Though you wouldn’t know it from the bourgeois press, tens of thousands have marched across Ukraine — from Kiev in the west to Odessa in the south and Dnipropetrovsk in the east — demanding that Russia withdraw from their country. The propertied rulers not only in Moscow, but also its rivals from Washington and Berlin, all fear the popular struggle for political space and independence.
These days Vladimir Putin represents the Russian capitalist class, a far cry from the early days of the post-Soviet Russian state, when the former Soviets had supposedly defeated the US in the cold war. Today The Militant calls for an anti-Russian, Workers' and Farmers' government in Kiev, and it characterizes the demonstrators as closet Communists. Their slogan is Russia Out Of Crimea.

Jeff Mackler reports on Ukraine for Socialist Action (SA), and he must have been standing on the other side of Square or something. For he sees something completely different.
At the recent Kiev “mass mobilizations” of 250,000 that drove Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych out of the country to seek refuge in Russia, the best organized forces were those of the fascist, anti-Semitic, hyper-nationalist groupings—most prominently, the Svoboda (“Freedom”) Party, formerly the Social-National Party, which traces its ideological roots to the pro-Nazi Ukrainian movements of World War II. 
These armed, club-wielding, and often Molotov-cocktail bomb-throwing beasts had been let loose by the rump Fatherland Party “opposition” Ukrainian parliamentary oligarchs. And this was accomplished with the complicity, if not overt support, of U.S. officials, who likely seized on the charge (now highly suspect) that Yanukovych had employed snipers to attack and murder 89 demonstrators and wound 100 others on Feb. 20 as the perfect moment to shift the debate over a European Union vs. Russian “trade agreement” toward a violent mobilization for Yanukovych’s removal.
Gotta love the scare quotes around "mass mobilizations," as if 250,000 demonstrators were chopped liver. Far from being advocates of a Workers' & Farmers' government, and not even lobbying for more political space (in The Militant's precious phrase), Mackler sees closet fascists instead of communists. Same demonstration--completely different class character.

So what gives? SA might argue that the evil cultist, Jack Barnes, is betraying the working class yet again by misleading his members about the true nature of the rebellion. And bizarrely, such an argument makes a little sense. For despite pro forma protestations against the US government, The Militant seems surprisingly sympathetic to US foreign policy. Mr. Studer writes without further comment,
The Defense Department announced March 5 that Washington is stepping up air patrols over Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. 
Putin’s bet is that Obama — who has proposed deep cuts in the U.S. war budget and adopted a passive stance toward the Syrian government to the advantage of Moscow and its ally President Bashar al-Assad — will resist countering Russia’s moves.
He sounds like a neo-conservative, but I think it's merely a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

So Misters Studer and Mackler look at the same people on the same square on the same day and come to completely opposite conclusions. Both gentlemen are roughly my age, and come from the same political background, associated with Trotskyism their entire adult lives.

I think there is no mystery. The politics in Ukraine is completely dysfunctional. They have two parties, to be sure, but if there ever were a Tweedledum and Tweedledee, they live in Ukraine. One party (the one Mr. Studer saw) are a bunch of fascist Commies. The other party (observed by Mr. Mackler) are instead commie Fascists. Hitler and Stalin, or is it Stalin and Hitler? These are the heritage of Ukrainian politics, and Misters Studer and Mackler can be forgiven for getting them mixed up. I couldn't tell the difference myself.

Personally, I support the free-market liberal demonstrators--all half dozen of them.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee agree on at least three things, among all the other things that they also agree on.

  1. The massive and extraordinarily blatant corruption of the Yanukovych regime was unacceptable.
  2. Any new regime has to support Tweedledum instead of Tweedledee, or vice versa.
  3. The Jews are very, very bad people (probably because the half-dozen still left in the country are free-market liberals).

Unfortunately for -dum and -dee, Ukraine is in a very strategic location. That gets the Great Powers involved, each backing one of the Tweedles. The US is supporting the fascist Commies because they oppose Russia and instead want a free lunch from the European Union. And Russia backs the commie Fascists because they want their free lunch from Russia. I hate to break the news to Studer & Mackler, but it's no more complicated than that.

So it is now Saturday night, just before the "referendum" on the future of Crimea. I offer a few predictions, the truth of which should become evident within the next few weeks.

  1. Losing Crimea is an existential threat to Russia. Absent a puppet government in Kiev, Russia needs to reassert its direct control over the peninsula. The Militant can whine and moan about the aggrieved Tatars all it wants, and Mr. Obama can threaten sanctions or more, but Russian control of Crimea is irreversible short of nuclear war. Crimea is to Russia what the Panama Canal is to the United States.
  2. Russia regards Ukraine as a province of Russia. Indeed, the original Russian empire was founded in Kiev. So Russia will insist on at least a friendly regime in Ukraine, but it will not pay any price. So threats of sanctions and military maneuvers will dissuade Moscow from invading. Ukraine is to Russia what Taiwan is to China. Like China, Russia can be patient, and I predict there will be no significant Russian invasion of the Ukrainian mainland.
  3. The flash point is the Baltic states, especially Estonia. That country is a member of NATO, but nearly 50% of its population is Russian. If Russian irredentism is kindled, this is where war happens first. But I don't predict that happening.
  4. I predict that the passengers of MH370 will be found alive. (Yeah, that's off topic, but who cares.)

And what's the longer term future for Russia and Ukraine? I have no clue, but I doubt it will be anything good.

Further Reading:

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