How I See Victory Day (as an American)

Red salute to the millions who died in the fight against fascism! Tragically, it seems there are more martyrs to come.

Emboldened by US backing of their newly-installed government in Kiev, fascists brutally murdered at least forty anti-fascists in Odessa this last week. The response should have been unequivocal – ¡No pasarán! – but immediately following the tragedy, the spin machine was kicked into full gear. Who could say who actually killed the protesters? Who could say they did not kill themselves with piano wire? And here comes the anti-communist “Left” squad with truncheons, beating back people who mourn the death of these martyrs with their famous slogan: Neither Moscow nor DC.

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Positioning the United States, which is undoubtably at the helm of our planetary slide into darkness, as a comparable threat to Russia, encircled on all sides by the American war machine, is laughable, if not actively malicious.  According the latest SIPRI report on military expenditures, The United States spent $640 billion on “defense” in 2013, while Russia, with its conscripted military, spent a little more than 13% of what the US did.

But to frame this tragedy as a conflict between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russian forces is to buy into the idea that Ukraine is standing bravely, on wobbly fawn’s legs, against the giant monster of Russia. Another way to frame the debate would be that a US funded coup brought a fascist, pro-austerity government into power in Kiev, and mobs of brownshirts are mopping up localized resistance against the fascists in parts of East Ukraine, going as far as to torture and burn them alive. If the Russian government is offering assistance to these  antifascists, among them communists, then shouldn’t we as antifascists even be a bit glad? And yet…

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see: https://twitter.com/keithgessen/statuses/462609427930308608

Even if there were anti-government protesters – *cough* excuse me, I mean to say Pro-Russians – shooting at pro-government protesters – *cough* excuse me, I mean to say Pro-Ukraines* – does this excuse the butcher of 40 armless civilians and then the arrest of hundreds more? I missed the numbers of those killed outside of the House of Labor that day… how many were there?

But for socialists, those who aspire to instill change in our world, who believe the system is fundamentally unjust and stacked against the world’s oppressed supermajority, the insistence on condemning “both imperialisms” is clearly an excuse to do nothing. A cop-out.

Warning flags go up when one hears the following: Yes, but isn’t Putin bad? You’re not saying you’re a “Putin-understander” are you? Saddam did gas his own children. Ghadaffi was leaning towards market reforms, wasn’t he? Iran makes its women wear hijab. It’s not purely socialist. Etc. Chances are these are people who cannot be arsed into marching to support the people being lynched in Ukraine. And if they were, well, they’d feel compelled to hand out flyers while marching explaining that yes, Putin is bad too. When you give credence to the imperialist narrative, you give people excuses not to act. What’s the point? Both sides are clearly in the wrong, and the offender bears the brunt of the barbarity.

This is false propaganda. The American fantasy of a hulking bloodthirsty Russia must be dispelled. Let the Russian left worry about Putin. The American left should be worrying about their own president, their own two-party mock democracy, the oppressed nations of African Americans and the Native Americans, the shadow, superexploited workforce they call “illegal”. And, more pressingly, the billions under surveillance, millions under occupation, drones butchering children, and yes, tax money going into the hands of fascists in Ukraine, who make molotov cocktails and strangle pregnant women to death.

There are fascists marching in Ukraine now. They are doing better than that, they have been installed and recognized by NATO and her allies. They are emboldened. They are firing on their own civilians who march for Victory Day, the day commemorating the unquantifiable sacrifice made by the Soviet Union in smashing Nazi Germany. Forty million killed as USA and UK sat back on their hands and watched, intentionally hoping the two would cull each other’s numbers. When the Ukrainian people hope to beat back the tide of austerity and god knows what else, they are labelled “Pro-Russian”. When they object to an unelected government on a “suicide mission” to strip the population of its last shreds of prosperity, must we allege they are on Russian payroll? Can we not guess that the Ukranian people, themselves having lost millions to Nazi aggression, know the cost is too high without “Russian agents” telling them about it?

So, on this Victory Day I try and remember all the people still fighting fascism today just as much as those who died fighting. As an American, I look to my own heroes and seek to emulate them in my struggle. And this means, as an American, being uncompromising and unwavering in my denouncement of our imperialist aggression abroad.

7 responses to “How I See Victory Day (as an American)

  1. occultist Jurajda

    Do you really think leftists need to give thoughtless support to every right-wing nationalist state that is against the USA?

    Your view on the Ukrainian crisis is just completely dense – the only thing that compares is the NATO opinion on the same issue. It’s just a big joke – the right-wing in the US thinks Putin is Hitler and is poised to start World War III, while “left-wingers” like you think that Euromaidan was a fascist coup and considers Russia – one of the most ultra-nationalist states in the world – a progressive force in this case. And the conviction of people like you – it’s no surprise I only hear the most loudly stupid opinions coming from places like New York and London – a thousand miles or more from Ukraine. For people like you, Ukraine can be morphed into some convenient abstraction that fits into a strawman narrative of the world order.

    I guess you think that just because John McCain says something stupid, your five-second analysis based on skimming pro-Russian blogs and watching RT is authoritative and firm. It’s true, the NATO story about Ukraine is easy to debunk – it’s as easy as referring to the 2010 election results (http://imgur.com/jjeBFyM) that show that Yanukovich was supported in the east. However, “leftists” like you always ignore the other side of reality – it’s also true that only a small minority in the west wanted to continue to live under that Russian neoliberal toady Yanukovich – in the west Euromaidan had a real base of support, and it wasn’t just a “NATO coup” or whatever line you picked off a Russian nazbol website.

    I would think that after observing the events in Syria, people with sense would finally abandon the idea that in every conflict there is the “good side” and the “evil side”. It just isn’t true in conflicts like the one in Ukraine, where one nationalist side faces off another nationalist side, with the fighting carried out by the most right-wing elements. In a situation like that, both sides are going to spit vitriol as each other, demonizing and misrepresenting the opinions of their opposition. And yet despite that you seem to treat the stance of the most right-wing pro-Russian elements as gospel in the current conflict, rigidly following their stance on Odessa and on Euromaidan. Why? I doubt it’s for any other reason but that pervasive idea cultists like you have, where the “anti-American” side is automatically the correct side that you’re not allowed to criticize. It’s just easier for you to believe the whole conflict is NATO-paid Ukrainian fascists killing faultless innocents, than y’know…like most other violent conflicts – militants from both sides killing each other.

    So, what would the impact of your foolishness be, assuming it had any impact at all? I would argue the impact is profoundly negative, if your cause is what you say it is (socialism, to instill change in the world, etc.). Your post has the same off-putting combination of aspirations to Machiavellian realpolitik and naivety that blemishes the rest of your “anti-imperialist” cult, which is dead set on ignoring its own irrelevance in 21st century politics. What the left-wing needs right now is certainly not more decades of sheepish support for regressive right-wing empires under the guise of “anti-imperialism”, but to build a grassroots base of political support in the West and elsewhere. I guess you’ve never noticed but your kind of radical posturing is utterly repulsive to the broader audience, even if it might impress your cult of a dozen Brooklyn Maoists on Twitter.

  2. First off it’s telling you spin this “It’s just easier for you to believe the whole conflict is NATO-paid Ukrainian fascists killing faultless innocents, than y’know…like most other violent conflicts – militants from both sides killing each other” without evidence. I missed it where the federalists of East Ukraine were lynching Maidan activists.

    Secondly, what is really so radical about my posturing? Do you really think those at the Maidan wanted a “suicide government” led by the man who is most trusted to jam through austerity and trade agreements by the IMF and its running dogs? Do you really think the people who protest that outcome, along with the uptick in “making Russian illegal” or whatever, are Russian dupes? The Western press sees Russian spies everywhere.. Russians hiding in groups of women and children, in groups of peaceful activists. Again with the “cowards hiding behind women and children”! Meanwhile, the US is being quite honest with its $1b aid package to help fight off Russian aggression, the phone calls leaked about the US and Ukraine’s “new government”. The Ukraine government is sending in troops and Nazi militias to lynch and terrorize Ukrainian citizens in the East.. and somehow they’re the ones called “pro-Ukraine”? The people they’re killing “pro-Russian”? I categorically reject these terms as biased and shaped by imperial narrative. How is that radical?

    How can one rally a grassroots base of political support in the West without also explaining that social programs and economic inequality, indeed capitalism as we know it, are funded by the continued ruthless exploitation of the world’s oppressed majority by the bilateral trade agreements, and strategic placement of bases stocked with weapons of mass destruction? The American people must understand that our standard of living is off the backs of violence and imperialism – otherwise we are simply left squabbling over whether or not to call Putin a ruthless dictator.

    Finally it’s always thrilling to hear people tell me how my views are “utterly repulsive” to the broader [generally white, male, bourgeois, first world] audience. Naturally I used to also preface my denouncement of the war in Iraq with “well yes, Saddam was a bad guy” and it wasn’t until I had enough people from your ephemeral “broader audience” tell me how repulsive it was to hear an American, an American of all people! – chide on about Iraqis and their government while my country dropped bombs on them that I stopped feeling the need to do so. My views on American imperialism are repulsive to many, especially those who benefit from such an arrangement, but certainly not a majority. I’m not seeking to convert liberals, or even people like you. They will see the sense in standing against American imperial aggression or they won’t. Hardly matters to me, I’d like a world where the bourgeoisie ISN’T running things for a change.

  3. Manyfest this guy is from the “political correctness Gestapo forbid us from acknowledging Tray on Martin was armed with a sidewalk and would have killed Zimmerman if he hasn’t defended himself. We know because we watch the wire and cops and law and order amd David lynch movies and know how the work works.”

  4. From acknowledging=to acknowledge

  5. occultist Jurajda

    When I said the audience, I didn’t mean the [white, male, bourgeois, first world] audience. Neither did I presuppose that everyone in “the audience” is in favor of American imperialism – most are against it, even in the US, many oppose it even among the [white, male, bourgeouis, first world] American minority. Even Ron Paul was against the Iraq War. However, that doesn’t change my argument at all.

    It’s good of you to be honest and admit you’re out here for the sake of converting people, albeit strictly on your own terms, as you point out. I have to wonder though – do you at all believe that the people you’re trying to reach are going to “see the sense in standing against American imperial aggression” in the way you would want them to? Could you say…stand in front of a crowd of people and say that with a straight face? I kind of doubt it.

    Well..when it comes to me, I don’t believe it. We’ll sooner see Ron Paul elected president on a Trotskyist ticket than that happening. With “westerners” it is just not going to happen – you know it yourself. People here just aren’t like that, they have narrow interests and are weary about getting involved in anything. Furthermore, they’ve been worked on for decades by a media institution with superabundant resources at its disposal. Finally, many of them do have a stake in the current social order, and even more of a stake in stability – even if they hate the current situation, they hate strife and conflict even more.

    It’s especially not going to happen in the terms you stated it – “they see the sense in standing against…”. Putting it in those words, did you mean that they will come over to your view of things on their own? Isn’t that the same as expecting capitalists to surrender power out of their own volition? When has anything ever changed like that? It didn’t happen that way in the 1800s, the 1900s, and it won’t happen that way now. Maybe you’re thinking that when the big crisis arrives, it will happen. That also makes no sense – what conclusions did some Germans come to during the Great Depression, even with the massive left-wing presence of the time?

    Maybe you’re thinking that the real force is going to come from the third world, as many thought it would in the 1960s and 1970s. I find that hard to believe as it involves making a lot of assumptions about a vast portion of humanity that neither of us are acquainted with (or in fact, can be acquainted with in its enormity).

    So if I develop your strand of logic to its conclusion – that this impossible thing is a precondition for rallying a grassroots base of support, I also have to come to the conclusion that – on your terms – failure is certain.

    I don’t think it’s wise to set yourself to converting people. I think the relevant problem is mobilizing people with vastly disparate opinions for the sake of changing one thing, not all of them at once. It’s what Gandhi did in India in the 1940s, for example. And before you say something against Gandhi – I’m talking about the Gandhi who intensely despised cowards and many times almost starved himself to death in protest against imperialism. I don’t mean the media Gandhi.

    And given that that is my opinion, I do think your blog post is harmful, although as I said, I don’t think it actually has any effect because nobody is paying attention. You’re trying to execute a strategy which involves excluding anyone who doesn’t cross over to your side. On your own terms, you’re going to fail – and you’re also going to cause harm elsewhere. Through exposure to people like you, some will get it into their heads that the left is some kind of nasty cult that badgers with demands and offers nothing except insults and contempt. I suspect your strategy will turn off more people than it will convince.

    And I didn’t even get around to Ukraine. Call me out on it if you like – I decided to focus on one thing and didn’t set myself to write a book so as to cover everything you said. Why would I do it, in any case – nobody will read this comment and maybe fifty people will skim through your post.

  6. I don’t know, you’re coming at me pretty hard for thinking just fifty people will skim my post. If my approach is so unrealizable, so and nasty, so alienating, then why not leave me to temper tantrum in my tiny little corner of the internet? You are spewing counter-revolutionary propaganda, telling me with the tone of someone who knows for sure that the people united are fundamentally unable to radically change the course of history. Under this worldview, people are infants, only able to focus on one thing at a time, not able to make connections or think dialectically, whatever. Unable to do more than end one problem at a time – if that! As if problems in this world weren’t relational. Also, I explicitly said I wasn’t out to convert people – why did you say the opposite?

  7. Manyfesto, you said:
    “The American people must understand that our standard of living is off the backs of violence and imperialism – otherwise we are simply left squabbling over whether or not to call Putin a ruthless dictator. “
    I totally agree with the existence of imperialism and violence behind our present lifestyle, and therefore the urgent need of change, but how would an actual revolution happen?
    How do you see it starting and propagating? By education, by example, by giving our lives and becoming martyrs?
    I want a revolution too, but I have not a clear idea of how it would be “realized” in our present world.
    People are still made of flesh and blood like 100 years ago, but with the present level of corruption it’d be very difficult to bring their awareness to the point of starting any larger movement, unless some sort of universal crisis presents itself to shake the basis of present structure of corruption in our global society.
    I believe that the guy “occultist Jurajda” described approximately the problem that I call corruption with the following words:
    ”People here just aren’t like that, they have narrow interests and are weary about getting involved in anything. Furthermore, they’ve been worked on for decades by a media institution with superabundant resources at its disposal … many of them do have a stake in the current social order, … even if they hate the current situation, they hate strife and conflict even more.”
    I would add that the system is also actively working to keep this mindset of the average person, as even if things are not going so well now they will or would, if the person just believes in the system and applies her/him-self hard enough to see the “good results” coming. This is the idea of “corruption” that I’m talking about, the idea that if one applies oneself hard enough one can find one’s way out of the essential conflict (violence and imperialism) in which the capitalist society was created, in the first place.
    You know and I know, as many do, that this is a lie, but how can we expect that the average person will understand this, having in sight that they have been educated / trained / programmed to see it as the truth?

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