|Anthony McIntyre & Mark Hayes|
MH: We are being played. The Nazis caused this. I am no fan of Putin, but there are no “good guys” in this scenario.
AM: Forget MSM. But there are some good sources about. My sympathies lie with the Ukrainian people much as they do with Palestinian people.
MH: I think we can agree that MSM has been dreadful - spooks everywhere. Yes I agree civilians are always victims and it needs to stop but the idea that this wasn't provoked is bullshit. Putin has overplayed his hand but Zelensky is a puppet for very dark forces. I went to Scott Ritter’s site cause I wanted to get away from the “Lefty” narrative on this issue (“workers unite” etc) because it's not realistic.
AM: Ritter seeks to undermine the US at every opportunity for whatever reason without being convincing. I like plausible analysis. There was an element of provocation but I think Putin used that as an excuse. I think Zelensky has won the PR battle.
MH: I think NATO used Asov to provoke the Russians in East Ukraine and overplayed their hand. The Russians have been planning this response since 2014 (maybe 2008). It is epochal because they want to fuck off the dollar and shift the global economic axis east (with China and India). They will bring on board lots of African and Latin American countries. US full spectrum dominance is over. Taiwan next. Dangerous times.
AM: Russia has its own Azov types. West might have laid a trap, but Putin seemingly had other motives. American power remains awesome unfortunately.
MH: Yes Russia does and Putin is a gangster. But I don't see any good guys in this fiasco certainly not the Yanks or British. I do have sympathy for civilians, especially those ethnic Russians who were being “cleansed” by racist fanatics.
AM: I think Dombas defies easy characterization. Far Right elements fought on both sides in 2014 despite sharing so much ideology. They came from afar and took their sides. Many Azov regarded Putin as a hero. Wholly contradictory. I spoke with an old school Marxist last week and he was for the Russians and the people of Donbas but he was parroting a line.
MH: I wouldn't lose a moments sleep if Azov were slaughtered. Problem is civilians will die in the process. Most Marxists I know refused to opt for either side.
AM: It seems to me to be an imperative to opt for the society being invaded. That pitches me against Russia immediately for the very same reason that I am pitched against Israel without supporting Hamas.
MH: I think ideology trumps national self-determination in this case. Ukrainians have a history of opting for fascism and Azov and the Right Sector et al are deeply embedded in the military. I adopt the same approach to Islamic fundamentalists anyway - to fuck them up suits me. So in short if I was given a gun and told I had to make a choice I'd probably opt for the Russians. But I'm glad that scenario is hypothetical.
AM: But the Russians are right-wing authoritarian nationalists pushing vulture capitalism. That ideology cannot trump national self-determination. This is not some left-right struggle. Ukraine sustained more losses, both military and civilian, than any other Soviet region fighting the Nazis. Ukraine has a serious far right problem, but it is being exacerbated by Russia. Azov grew in stature in response to 2014 repression. International solidarity with the people being invaded and against the right-wing invaders seems like only authentic stance the Left can take. I feel the Left is gonna come out the other side of this in a dire strait. Ukraine is not Nazi Germany and Russia is not Soviet Union. There is only one side to pick.
MH: Yes I know this is more complicated but I just don't have the same sympathy for Ukrainians who have made a point of hero worshipping the war criminal Bandera and who rushed to form their own SS divisions during the war. That legacy remains. I also think you underestimate the level of pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine. There are some who would be happy to see the back of Zelensky. You are right it isn't Left v Right which is why I find the Left solutions impractical. It seems to me a straight case of opting for the lesser of two evils. Which is why I would have to be forced to choose. It is not Spain. I wouldn't lift a finger to help the Ukrainian government, although humanitarian aid is essential of course.
AM: The reason Bandera ever got sympathy, apart from being gaoled by the Nazis for most of the war, was that he represented an anti-Soviet nationalism made popular by Soviet atrocity. Very bitter memories exist as a result of what was inflicted on Ukraine by Stalin. Within days of Operation Barbarossa he offered Ukraine to the Nazis in a bid for peace. There was a lot of goodwill in Ukraine for Russia but that looks like evaporating. The pro-Russian crook of a president had at least 50% of the public but his draconian crackdown gave life to Azov. When right-wing capitalists launched an imperialist attack on another country and massacres its citizens there is only one side to be on. There are Marxists who genuinely feel Russia is moving towards fascism. It's right-wing nationalist authoritarian character is undeniable.
MH: Putin is a scumbag. And I know it is an authoritarian system. But I don't believe that de-Nazification is simply a pretext. 14,000 civilians were killed in Donbas while the Ukrainian government did nothing apart from arm the perpetrators. There is a legacy of anti-Nazism in Russia that is visceral and justified. I cannot discount or ignore that. Azov was a massive fuck-you to the Russians. I'm surprised the Russians didn't respond earlier if anything. That's not to say Russia were justified. The Minsk agreements should have been adhered to but Ukraine built up massive forces in Donbas. Ukraine has become a pawn in a game played by the CIA and MI6 against Putin and is now paying the price. As I'm sure we can agree civilians will pay the heaviest price.
AM: Four of the thirteen Soviet hero cities awarded for fighting Nazism were in Ukraine. They never went into de-Nazify any more than Israel goes into Gaza on security grounds. Russia backed far right forces in Donbas in 2014. It put troops on the ground to back the insurgents to destabilise Ukraine because it would not do its bidding. It was a response to Ukraine wanting to move towards EU. There is a legacy of anti-Nazism in Ukraine, not just in Russia. There is also a visceral anti-Kremlin attitude because of the Stalin murder by hunger in the early 1930s. Russia was crucial to Azov growing legs by backing the corrupt president. At the start Azov was marginal. At the end it had mushroomed because of the repression. One of Azov’s heroes was Putin. Feeding Nazism is not the means of blocking it. The Minsk agreement was not adhered to by either party. Ukrainians were never going to allow a veto by Donbas over foreign policy. Putin is a war criminal on a par with Netanyahu and should be given no leeway by the Left. If the Left is to have any authenticity it should oppose a right-wing authoritarian nationalism that is engaged in an expansionist imperialist project. If it fails to do that, its own arse is where it will end up. The Left needs to explain not excuse, and needs to know what side to be on when a fairly democratic society is under attack by an anti- democratic state.
MH: I think that this underestimates the extent to which Americans, particularly the security services, have manipulated this whole fiasco. Watch Oliver Stone’s Ukraine on Fire. This is cynical geo-politics for sure but I can't imagine the Americans being too happy if the Russians were manipulating the government in Mexico. As for the anti-Nazi Ukrainians during the war well that's a historical fact. So is the fact that many Ukrainians took their families on a day out to watch the massacres. Others became partisans simply because the Nazis treated them like Slav dogs, not because they disagreed with the ideology. My sense is that the Left is divided on this. There is no “position” because there are so many conflicting elements. I would however agree that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. It applies here. I think part of the reason I find the whole pro-Ukraine movement so distasteful is because we never held Western governments to account when they destroy the Middle East in a similar fashion (remember depleted uranium in Falluja etc) and we are paid to take Ukrainian refugees while Syrians can drown clinging to a lilo in the Mediterranean. The hypocrisy of the whole thing stinks.
AM: The US did manipulate. It is to maintain a unipolar world. But there is nothing new here. Russia manipulated just as readily. Its regime in Donbas ended up at the bottom of the democratic index. The Baltic states all joined NATO because they felt threatened by Russia. Watched Stone's film - bullshit propaganda and nowhere near good as Winter on Fire which was also propaganda but much more cleverly done. The US would never allow Mexico the room to align with Russia. But that just tells us what we know about the US. It does nothing to rehabilitate Russia. When people see no difference between Nazi murder and Soviet murder what side to pick doesn't rest on morality or ideology. A minority of Ukrainians participated in the SS. But when there is no perceivable difference between NKVD and SS, people are fucked every which way. Hypocrisy prevents us holding the West to account but that is no reason to let the Kremlin oligarchs wage war on a civilian population. The Left have no cause to be split on this. Opposition to imperialist aggression should determine where the Left stands. The Russian-backing Left will end up marooned. No wonder the Right is on the rise. The regressive left is a major asset to the far right.
MH: I just think a lot of people on the Left are very uneasy about backing a project that was so clearly engineered by the USA. They are also appalled at the double standards. I know I am. I don't know anyone who would actively or publicly support what Russia has done. Explaining or even understanding the motives isn't the same as justifying it. The world would be a better place without Putin. But the world would be a better place without Bolsonaro, the House of Saud, Duterte or any other anti-democratic monster. But the fact is Putin's approval rating now is 83% in Russia and he has made a play to change the world. The EU has hitched their wagon to sleepy Joe but the Yanks could not give one single fuck about them. It means we will all suffer. My point is that demonising Putin and virtue signalling by pretending the West’s shit doesn't stink won't get us out of this mess. Yes Putin is a cunt, but so was Blair and Bush. We need to end it by negotiation. The consequences of not doing so are dire for the Ukrainians and the rest of us.
AM: It should be ended by negotiation. But the right to use arms in this unequal conflict has to rest with Ukraine. It is being targeted by an imperialist power. If the Left can't stand firm against Russian aggression its opposition to Israeli aggression is nothing other than vacuous waffle.
MH: I don't see the equivalence because the Palestinians did nothing to precipitate their trauma. The Ukrainians government did. Like it or not. The Ukrainian citizens are paying the price for the utter stupidity and malevolence of their own government. That's tragic. By the way the Left opposition to Israel has always been vacuous because most of them have never conceded the right of Palestinians to armed defence. It was exactly the same in Ireland. Bullshitters on an epic scale.
AM: The Ukrainian government wanted the right to determine its own future in line with what its citizens wanted and was punished for it. Unlike Russia, power changes hands. The malevolence and stupidity is Russia's not Ukraine's. And it is a stupidity that is paying a heavy price. My experience of the Left is the opposite. I don't know which Left does not support Palestinian right to self-defence. Over here anyway.
MH: Then they should not have attacked ethnic Russians in the East, banned their language, derided their culture etc. By the way I think the Irish government had every right to intervene to protect nationalists in 1968-69. Putin overplayed his hand for his own reasons and should be held to account. The Left here is a different beast, I think. Their idea of socialism is the right of a man to wear a skirt (I jest, but you get my point). Identity politics and pathetic posturing has eviscerated the Left. I reckon I probably hate them more than you do. I am also not sure how far focusing on democracy in Ukraine is useful when your National Defence force is full of ideological Nazis. It's a bit like saying that Fred West had a nice patio.
AM: The attack in the East was in response to a pro-Russian militia occupying buildings and taking hostages. If not prompted by Russia it was certainly used by it to destabilize Ukraine in the wake of Maidan. The intervention logic explained above echoes the Nazi intervention in the Sudetenland. It also implies that for the first time ever in the history of right-wing imperialism a humanitarian military intervention was made. How credible is that? Donbas 2014 was like the North of Ireland - a loyalist group with allegiance to a foreign power trying to fragment national unity. The Nazis in the Defence Force are a small percentage but should not be there. Perhaps a worse problem is what Richard Sakwa identifies at policy level where policy is said to be held hostage by a raucous hard right minority. I don't hate the Left but I do despise the posture politics that often characterises them. Without the Left here we would struggle in workplace relations.
MH: Humanitarian military intervention has been the orthodoxy in the West in the Middle East and elsewhere. I think that's the point - it's hypocrisy to criticise this and not their own. Doesn't apply to you of course because you condemn both, but you can understand why people think you can shove your double standards up your hole.
AM: I still firmly believe that the Left is not worth a brass farthing if it fails to oppose the supreme war crime. From that all else follows. I support arming the Ukrainians with defensive weapons, but I support arming the Palestinians with them too.
MH: The role of the United States in this fiasco is central. It is a rogue state (pace Chomsky). The Neocons want to destabilise Russia and then it's Iran and China. I wouldn't supply Ukraine with weapons because it will just prolong the agony - precisely what the CIA wants. And as I said before I hate Azov. We have been here before but I think “everyone loses” just about sums it up.
⏭ Mark Hayes has published widely on a variety of subjects. He is a republican and a Marxist, unapologetic on both counts.
⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.