Friday, May 23, 2014

Eastern Ukraine: the logic of a revolt | Counterfire

Russian bureaucrats have been honestly surprised at the reaction by the official West—they did not expect such anger or unanimous condemnation. European politicians are beside themselves with fury. The mainstream press is relating appalling stories to its readers of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The television shows interviews with Kiev ministers and deputies who tearfully implore Europe to save their country from the enraged bear.

Indeed, the reputation of Putin’s Russia in the West is nothing wonderful—even worse than that of Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. But what we are now witnessing is quite outside the bounds of the usual. There was nothing resembling it either during the Cold War, or during the Chechen conflict, or during the clash between Russia and Georgia. We should not even mention the action of Yeltsin in shelling the Russian parliament; at that time, the liberal West applauded.

In Moscow, people were expecting criticism following the annexation of Crimea. But that was more than a month ago, and the Kremlin authorities have done nothing new since. Several times a day they repeat, like a mantra, words to the effect that they respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine; that they are not about to annex anyone else; that they have called on the West to work out a joint approach with them to the crisis…but the criticism has not ceased. Meanwhile, the more absurd the declarations issued by the present rulers in Kiev, the more avidly and delightedly these have been lapped up. Only after the signing of the Geneva agreement of 17 April between Ukraine, Russia and the West was there a certain softening: the European officials discovered abruptly that in Ukraine it was “necessary to deal with groups that answer neither to Kiev nor to Moscow,” and it was recognised that “clear proof was lacking” of interference from Moscow. But warnings were issued in every case that if the Russian authorities did not behave themselves, there would soon perhaps be such proof.

The arguments of the Kremlin in this dispute have not worked, and cannot work, for the simple reason that Western politicians for the present are not especially interested in what official Russia is thinking or doing. These politicians know perfectly well that there is no Russian invasion, and this, precisely, is the main international problem for them. To admit as much means admitting that the government in Kiev has gone to war on its own people. To speak of the Donetsk Peoples Republic as an independent political phenomenon in impossible, since this would require posing the question of the reasons for the popular protest, and listing its demands. The talk of Kremlin agents and of the ubiquitous Russian troops—who are impossible to discover, but who have occupied close to half of Ukraine without firing a shot or even showing themselves on Ukrainian territory—is playing the same propaganda role against the Donetsk republic as was played in the anti-Bolshevik propaganda of 1917 by stories of German spies and of money from the German General Staff.

The point here is not so much to discredit opponents of the present authorities, depicting them as traitors to their country, as to conceal the class essence of the movement that has arisen, its social basis. A half-unconscious fear has taken hold of the liberal public, from intellectuals and politicians to decent and almost progressive bourgeois, and is forcing them to believe the most obvious ravings, to repeat any manifest rubbish, so long as class struggle is neither mentioned nor thought about in any serious way. That is, not class struggle as it is described in learned tomes and depicted by the best avant-garde cinema, but as it occurs in real life, and as it becomes a fact of practical politics.

The new Kiev authorities are directing the same accusations at the anti-Maidan forces in the south-east, and spinning the same conspiratorial theories about them, as Yanukovich’s propaganda employed a few months back in discussing the Maidan. But all this is now being repeated on a scale ten or a hundred times greater than before, and is taking on completely grotesque forms.

Complete story at - Eastern Ukraine: the logic of a revolt | CounterfireMe CorporateNews

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