“If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
We’d see the horror in the heart of farce,
If only we could act instead of talking,
We wouldn’t always end up on our arse.
This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
Don’t yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.” – Bertolt Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
“Camus said the plague has not disappeared … Moreover, when he said that anything is possible … then the worst is possible … we could see a resurgence everywhere of what Camus wrote about—the worst in mankind … We have a duty to know history in order to overcome it and create the future … When we speak of Europe, we have to remember what Europe can be: the cradle of a terrifying monstrosity. We have in our heart the capacity to again give birth to the worst. The plague did not disappear, and that’s why Camus wrote the novel The Plague.” – theater director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota
“The fury of the privileged when threatened always exceeds the anger of the underprivileged demanding a measure of equity.” – David Coates. Quoted by Studs Terkel in “Discussing the book The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century with the author, historian and journalist Christopher Simpson,” WFMT Radio, Chicago, March 9, 1993, 52:30~.
It feels like another era, but just a few weeks ago, in January 2022, self-described socialists in Canada were denouncing the truckers’ protest in Ottawa as a fascist movement. It did have support from conservative and libertarian elements, and there were some extremist symbols added to the mix—put there too blatantly to be anything but the work of provocateurs—but for the most part, the crowd was a working class, non-radical, apolitical mainstream element of society that had simply had enough of restrictions on their freedom of movement and bodily autonomy. Actually, it was the fact that the protesters represented a large swath of ordinary folks that provoked such a strong reaction from the government. It was the government that had the fascist reaction in the way it refused to listen to or speak with the protesters, shut down donations to them, then arbitrarily seized the financial assets of protesters before any legal charges had been filed against them, without there having been any trials or convictions.
Nonetheless, many Canadians watched from their living rooms and got on social media to comment that we must “smash fascism.” So brave of them. Then Russia began its operation to de-nazify Ukraine, and these armchair anti-fascists fell silent. Canada is a “provincial” country where most people, even self-described socialists and progressives, pay little attention to foreign relations and geopolitics. Being socialist now mostly consists of harm reduction—trying desperately to stop decades of neoliberalism’s relentless cutbacks on social spending. For the most part, Canadians knew nothing about the 2014-2022 period when Ukraine was transformed into a US-NATO puppet state with the sole purpose of de-stabilizing Russia and providing carpetbagging opportunities for “the West,” as exemplified by Hunter Biden, the son of the US vice president at the time.
The bitch that bore him has born again.
In the first month of Russian military operations in Ukraine, Western media has repeatedly downplayed the influence of Nazis in Ukraine, contradicting its own in-depth reports on this matter filed before the present time when anti-Russia propaganda is a critical necessity. In an interview with Rachel Maddow, former American ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, was caught saying Putin was worse than Hitler because “Hitler didn’t kill ethnic Germans. He didn’t kill German-speaking people.” Reminded soon afterward that German Jews were German speaking German citizens, he apologized the next day, but the comments stand now as a permanent record of the new apologetics for fascism. There have been numerous other examples, in addition to the abundant commentary that this war is different because it is in the heart of Europe, and it is happening to “people who look like us” (i.e. white, blond, blue-eyed).
The present situation is similar to the 1930s when the distressed working class threatened revolution and the American, British, and French governments were eager to dismiss German fascism as a fringe movement of no concern. Hitler was, for many foreign observers, revitalizing Germany, and despite some unpleasant characteristics, they hoped until it was too late that at least he would solve the problem posed by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. They refused Stalin’s offer to form an alliance against German fascism, and so there is a historical parallel now in their refusal to take seriously—for eight years—Putin’s insistence that Ukraine needs to be de-nazified. Before we condemn his intervention, we should consider what suffering could have been avoided if the “international community” had acted in concert in 1933 to de-nazify Germany.
After the American-backed 2014 coup that ousted the elected government of Ukraine, the new president, Poroshenko, made statements that clearly showed genocidal intent. His American finance minister, Natalie Jaresko, quickly given Ukrainian citizenship to take the job, gave full support to the Azov Battalion “heroes” fighting against separatists in Donbass. About the ethnic Russian minority in Donbass, President Poroshenko said:
“We will have jobs and they won’t. We will have retirement benefits and they won’t. We will have benefits for seniors and children, and they won’t. Our children will go to school and kindergarten, but theirs won’t. Their children will stay in basements, so they won’t know how to do anything. And like this, precisely like this, we will win this war.”
At that time, a massacre of Russian-speaking citizens had already occurred in Odessa, but it went unpunished and uninvestigated. Neo-Nazi hate groups were terrorizing citizens, preaching hatred, and calling for expulsion and cleansing of Russian-Ukrainians. The neo-Nazi militias were integrated into the military to fight the civil war in Donbass.
Based on what the “international community” claimed to have learned after events in Rwanda in 1994 about dehumanization of a targeted group and preparations for mass killings, Poroshenko’s talk should have alarmed the world and forced the UN to take action to resolve the civil war and delegitimize the Ukrainian government if necessary. But the “international community” has always had a very selective concern for genocide. Indonesia in 1965-66 is the prime example of a massive genocide that the populations of NATO countries are hardly aware of.
Over eight years, Russia pressured the UN to recognize the severity of the conflict and to take action, but the Western powers had other plans. The Minsk Accords were supposed to be a solution to the problem, but the nations selling weapons to Ukraine and fueling the conflict exerted no pressure on their client to enforce the accords. The war was a money-maker and useful as an irritant against Russia. In February 2022, Russia invoked Chapter VII Article 51 of the UN Charter to take military action to protect the civilian population of Donbass. It deemed the action a humanitarian necessity until such time as the United Nations acts to enforce a peaceful settlement.
This is an ambiguous and wide loophole in the UN Charter, but the fact remains that the people of Donbass are no longer under siege. The entire population of Ukraine, and especially its leadership, could have cared a little more about their fellow citizens in Donbass if they had wanted to prevent Russia from taking action to solve their internal dispute—one that was causing a refugee flow into Russia—but that would have required standing up to the fascist battalions and the masters of war in Washington.
The solution that should have been obvious to any Canadian was to have a federal system with language and minority rights enshrined in the constitution—something which the people of Donetsk and Lugansk asked for before they decided to pursue independence. There is a long history of bitter conflict in Canada over the special rights given to Quebec to preserve the French language, but it was always confined to petty complaints about having two languages on cereal packages, or which group gets the better jobs in the civil service. Even during the radical separatist movement of the 1970s, there was never political traction for ugly talk about forcing the Quebecois back to France, clearing space in Quebec for English-speakers to inhabit, depriving Quebecois of their social rights. Roving armed nationalist mobs never forced Quebecois to sing the national anthem in English. The separatist movement played out through electoral politics and stayed peaceful. Yet all of these extreme examples I mention here did occur in recent years in Donbass, so no one should find it surprising or unjustifiable that the people there want to defend themselves and separate from a nation that holds them in such contempt.
The same goes for Crimea where most of the population is ethnically Russian. Regardless of what anyone thinks about the way Crimea became a Russian territory, there is absolutely no way the people of Crimea will ever want to be part of Ukraine again after once being divorced from its abusive spouse.
It is appalling that the Canadian government, or the Swiss or the Belgian government, never used their diplomatic influence on Ukraine to suggest their own experiences and their federal systems offered examples for Ukraine to follow. Instead, the Trudeau administration decided to go along with NATO and send military support that would only escalate the conflict in Donbass.
The easiest thing to do at this time is to stick to one’s pacifism, to be principled and say one condemns Putin’s violation of international law equally with past NATO invasions and violations. But that is a little too easy. It is a denial of the war that started with the coup d’état in 2014, followed by the growth of fascist batallions, the preparation for genocide, and the war on the Russophone minority in Donbass. This stance denies the reality of great power geopolitics, which has never adhered to international law, except when it could be used conveniently. As Alexander Finnegan described it (see full quote below):
“… we must accept the material conditions in which we live. We do not pick the way the world is. We live in a world which is dominated by Western imperialism. It has destroyed many in the Global South since the fall of the Soviet Union … Russia is acting in a defensive manner because it is threatened by NATO building up to its gates. NATO is … an aggressive [alliance], camouflaged as a defensive one.”
War is a continuation of everyday structural violence, a response to preceding forms of assault on sovereignty, or, to twist a phrase about this theme, invasion is only war by other means. Or, as Central American migrants say in the US, “We didn’t cross the border. The border crossed us.” Many people say Russia had other choices besides invasion, but the fact is all those other choices were tried and exhausted over eight years. This conflict is like chess, a game at the end of which there is not a wide choice of options. There is only one forced move to make in order to stay in the game and avoid checkmate.
For anyone who has gone along with the argument that fascists in Ukraine are a marginal group with no influence, read the words below of Yevhen Karas, the leader of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi terror gang C14, spoken in early February 2022. I despise his ideology, but I acknowledge he has some intelligent understanding of the situation in Ukraine that has escaped liberal observers.
Yevhen Karas makes it clear that his group, and others like it, have a powerful influence over Ukraine, in spite of their small numbers and their apparent lack of representation in government. Although Ukraine has been receiving enormous amounts of military and economic aid from NATO, the IMF, and the EU, he states clearly that the extremist groups have no respect for or admiration of Western liberal values. He says the Maidan protests would have been a “gay parade” without the presence of fascists. Instead of believing Ukraine will join Europe, they believe that Russia will be destabilized and balkanized into perhaps five smaller states, after which Ukraine will be supreme, a fulcrum of geopolitical power on the Eurasian continent. Like a psychotic gangster shedding tears over the blood he has to spill, Karas describes the fulfillment of this destiny as an obligation that brings “both joy and sorrow.”
The arsenal of Javelin missiles he boasted of is now probably destroyed by Russia, or in the possession of Russia. Mariupol, the stronghold of the Ukrainian fascist militias that have waged war on Donbass, is falling to Russian troops and thousands of the neo-Nazi fighters have been annihilated. The citizens held there as human shields by the fascist nationalists have been liberated. The dream of Ukraine as a global power was a fantasy, similar to the delusion of Ukrainian nationalists of the early 1940s who thought German Nazis would treat them as equals. They have been tools of the NATO-IMF-EU juggernaut that was happy to arm them and feed their illusions, all the while minimizing or denying their influence.
“We are now being given so much weaponry, not because as some say, ‘The West is helping us,’ not because they want the best for us, but because we perform the tasks set by the West, because we are the only ones ready to do them, because we have fun, we have fun killing and we have fun fighting. And they think, ‘Wow. Let’s see what happens.’ This is the reason for the new alliance: Turkey, Poland, Britain, and Ukraine. We are the flagman here because we have started a war that has not been seen for sixty years. So, imagine how many weapons we have, how many veterans we have. And now imagine Russia falls apart and turns into five different Russias or whatever. We will have the most Javelin missiles on the European continent, maybe only the UK has more. This potential of these armed forces will immediately become a problem for all those who are now trying to give us problems. It is our joy and our sorrow. You need to understand why. Yes, it is hard, not because ‘We are Ukrainians, and our ass has been kicked for 300 years. Why aren’t good things given to us, we who are such good people? We want to join Europe.’ No, we are a huge, powerful state, and if we come to power, it will be both joy and problems for the whole world. Therefore, it is a huge, ambitious task. We live in a very great time, and that is why there is an extremely ambitious, great goal—not to just become ‘a part of the European family’ that has already collapsed anyway. This is about new political alliances on the global level, new political challenges.
Maidan was the victory of the nationalist ideas. Nationalists were the key factor there, and clearly at the frontlines. Now, there is a lot of speculation saying, ‘Well, there were only a few neo-Nazis.’ LGBT groups and foreign embassies were saying, ‘There were not many neo-Nazis at Maidan. Maybe about 10% were real ideological Nazis.’ Such a thing can be said only by a moron that has never experienced war, and doesn’t understand the effect of those 10%, maybe even less, say 8%—how much more of a proportional influence they can have, how unlimited their effectiveness was. If not for those 8% who were neo-Nazis, the effectiveness of Maidan would have dropped by 90%. So the number of people is not the point. Now, some left-wingers like the Boell Foundation and so on are trying to count numbers, saying ‘There were this many nationalists, so they had that much influence.’ You want to talk about influence? If not for the nationalists, that whole thing would have turned into a gay parade.”
This edited version of the translation fixed some grammar errors that exist in the English subtitles of the video circulating on the Internet.
1. On genocide Denial in Canadian and Ukrainian historiography: Michael Sanders, “Fake News, Mighty Wurlitzers, Historical Amnesia, and the Elephant (or Bear) in the Room,” Press for Conversion, March 22, 2017.
2. On selective attention and selective neglect of genocide by powerful states and alliances in order to pursue geopolitical goals: Christopher Simpson, The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law and Genocide in the Twentieth Century (Common Courage Press, 1995), 11-12, 308-309:
Friedrich Nietzsche called the aristocratic predators who write society’s laws “the splendid blond beast” precisely because they so often behave as though they are beyond the reach of elementary morality. As he saw things, these elites have cut a path toward a certain sort of excellence consisting mainly of the exercise of power at the expense of others. When dealing with ordinary people, he said, they “revert to the innocence of wild animals… We can imagine them returning from an orgy of murder, arson, rape and torture, jubilant and at peace with themselves as though they had committed a fraternity prank—convinced, moreover, that the poets for a long time to come will have something to sing about and to praise.” …
“[After 1945,] the U.S. State Department and its allies orchestrated an effort to preserve and rebuild Germany’s economy as quickly as possible as an economic, political, and eventually military bulwark against new revolutions in Europe, even though much of the corporate and administrative leadership of German finance and industry that they wished to preserve had been instrumental in Hitler’s crimes. Many critics, not least of whom was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, accused this State Department faction of anti-Semitism, blocking rescue of refugee Jews, appeasement of Hitler, protection of Nazi criminals in the wake of the war… The similarities between [neglect of] the Armenian Genocide [after WWI] and the Holocaust [after WWII] suggest that the “Nazi problem” in postwar Germany is only partially traceable to the pressures of the cold war. Throughout the twentieth century, regardless of the prevailing atmosphere in East-West relations, most powerful states have attended to genocide only insofar as it has affected their own stability and short-term interests. Almost without exception, they have dealt with the aftermath of genocide primarily as a means to increase their power and preserve their license to impose their version of order, regardless of the price to be paid in terms of elementary justice.”
3. C.J. Hopkins, “Springtime for Globocap,” March 27, 2022
4. Alexander Finnegan, March 23, 2022
“… we must accept the material conditions in which we live. We do not pick the way the world is. We live in a world which is dominated by Western imperialism. It has destroyed many in the Global South since the fall of the Soviet Union. The death toll from the 2003 Iraq invasion is 1.2 million people. Russia is acting in a defensive manner because it is threatened by NATO building up to its gates. NATO is … an aggressive [alliance], camouflaged as a defensive one. It is responsible for destroying Libya, which was the most prosperous nation in Africa. Now it is a failed state with public slave markets. It also destroyed Yugoslavia, bombing it into oblivion. The Republicans in Congress recently were working on a bill that would force the US to defend Ukraine against Russia. This was to be used to retake Crimea, and to trap Donetsk and Luhansk. Putin would not have been able to protect them because he couldn’t risk WWIII [by fighting Americans directly].
People fetishize the role of ‘sovereign rights,’ all part of the nonsense of liberal democracy. But this fails to account for the implications of exercising these choices. It is myopic and entitled. As Marx discussed, the notion of ‘rights’ is a bourgeois trap, used to create the moral equivalent of minimum wage, in which we are entitled to a 15-minute smoke break when we should be co-owners of the shop… Sun Tzu was right that there is a balance of power. When that is disrupted, war results, balancing the equation. If we don’t recognize the reality of other nations and our relationships, they will remind us with violence. This is the real world, not some nonsense political science classroom.”