The results of the first 30 years of “democracy” in Ukraine are, to put it mildly, unconvincing. The economy and the media are in the hands of rival oligarchs, corruption is at staggering levels, economic development lags behind many African countries, and in addition, the country has become the center of the neo-Nazi movement around the world. And these problems are basically home-grown, not the result of the Kremlin’s intrigues.
Yet, the alternative is even worse. Putin is not just the gendarme of Europe, but the gendarme of the whole world —from Syria to Myanmar, whenever a dictator tortures and kills thousands of his own people, Putin is there to support him. There are no elections in Russia anymore. Even the most moderate attempts to change something results in criminal cases and persecutions.
I do not believe that the result of this, yet another, round of threatening declarations and building up pressure is a full-scale war. But as the conflict is not disappearing, a full scale war may start after 5-10 years, even as a result of a cycle of escalation, even if no-one really wants it. And in case of a full-scale war, we should be on the Ukrainian side. As Malatesta said, “For me there is no doubt that the worst of democracies is always preferable, if only from the educational point of view, than the best of dictatorships.”*. Neutrality in a war between Ukraine and Russia would mean neutrality in an invasion of a democracy by a dictatorship.
I may not take seriously leftists that declare that «they are against any kind of imperialism in Ukraine, American or Russian». Obviously, American imperialism exists, for example in Iraq and Central America, but not in Ukraine. Nato and USA have de-facto agreed to give Ukraine to the Russian sphere of influence. Whatever military or other aid Ukraine has received, it is not enough to stop a theoretical invasion. No-one would send military detachments to support Ukraine in case of an invasion.
What does «no war but a class war mean»?
Most participators of the Warsaw ghetto uprising were Zionists. But they were joined by internationalist fighters of the Bund organisation, anarchists of that time, who did not declare that «we are against both German nationalism and imperialism of the Nazis, and against Jewish nationalism and imperialism of the ghetto uprising». When the French military murdered tens of thousands of mostly random people in Algeria, French anarcho-communists did not declare that they are «Against French and Algerian nationalism». Instead, they provided concrete support to Algerian rebels. This support was met with repression and prison sentences, consequently French anarcho-communism was completely crushed. When Israel is stealing Palestinian fields and demolishing homes, anarchist do not declare that «we are against both Israeli and Palestinian nationalism», but rally against expulsions together with Palestinians.
Results of an unlikely, but possible, Russian occupation of Ukraine would be a collaborationist regime, massive repression (including destruction of the whole anarchist movement) and cancelling of all civil liberties. «No war but a Class War» does not mean that anarchists should maintain neutrality in case of an occupation. It means that anarchists are opposed to aggressive wars.
Resistance against Russian aggression is not only in the interests of the working class in Ukraine, but also in the interests of the working class in Russia. As for the Nazis, their core idea is just bootlicking, and in case of occupation, some of them will find themselves in the role of Quislings. As for anarchists, in case of a full-scale invasion, a troop of 50 anarchists with firecrackers and slingshots would look ridiculous. The regular army of Ukraine may not defeat Russia, but it may cause losses of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people. Thus, during the first phase of a theoretical invasion, the regular army should be supported. And with this, I do not mean that anarchists should give up their right to criticize decisions of the government or army HQ, or to not maintain as high of a degree of autonomy as possible.
After the first phase of theoretical invasion, there are several scenarios. Civil resistance such as strikes could be possible, but in «Peoples republics» of Donbass these have been ruthlessly repressed, which could also be the case with a Russian occupation, leaving only the possibility of armed struggle. In case there is no unitary resistance organisation, it may be that anarchists should act autonomously. But in case there is such a strong resistance organisation as the Polish Home Army during the Second world war, anarchists should cooperate with it. This was also the choice made by Polish syndicalists of the ZSP, who took part in the Warsaw uprising.
During the second world war, anarchists in practically every Nazi occupied European country, cooperated with the «mainstream» resistance movement, although these were controlled by stalinists or bourgeois nationalists. In France, anarchist refugees from Spanish CNT joined the Free France army, lead by general de Gaulle, and eventually ended up liberating Paris — but only because the allied leadership was so racist, they demanded that the first to enter the Paris should be white soldiers, and not the black soldiers from African French colonies, who formed the majority of the Free France forces.
In Russia, anarchists have been compelled to criticize myths around the «Victory Day». Obviously, in some regions, such as Chechnya, Stalin was no better than Hitler. But in almost all of the countries occupied by Nazis, anarchists and anti-authoritarians cooperated with the Allies. Only exception known to me is the Dutch Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg Front, which developed from Trotskyism towards council communism. It was a small underground organisation with few dozens or hundreds of members, and they refused to cooperate with the «mainstream» resistance. The MLL Front was equally against Great Britain and the Nazis, and also made calls «to not defend the Soviet Union» against Nazi invasion. In 1942 Nazists cought and shot the whole leadership of the organisation. Their very principled position did not make much difference. Less principled anti-authoritarians fared somewhat better. For example, Italian anarchist partisans liberated the city of Carrara, which then became a strong center of the anarchist movement. Nowhere did veterans of the anarchist resistance manage to regain the scale of the movement to the level that it was before the World War, but it is unlikely that this was due to «unprincipled» cooperation with the «bourgeois» allies.
Ethics is usually discussed only from an individual point of view, but from an immediate perspective, actions of both the MLL Front and the French anarcho-communists of the 50s were a failure. There is hardly any conclusion that could be made from a Kantian categorical imperative either – these were particular situations without perspectives of creating a universal moral rule. But revolutionary ethics does not have only individual perspectives, but also perspectives of the working class, and that of revolutionary organising. Revolutionary choices may result in immediate defeats, but this is not just a tragedy, if revolutionaries were on the right side of history. French anarcho-communists were on the right side of history, as they contributed to the destruction of colonialism. MLL Front, however, was not, as they rejected anti-fascist struggle. Yet, in their defence it must be said that they probably did not have the full picture about the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Same may not be said about the modern day ultra-leftists and neo-council communists, and anarchists who share their concepts. Council communist theory was created in the 1930’s, and was not updated after experiences of the holocaust, second world war, or the anti-fascist resistance that they reject. Ultra-leftist theory is consistent in its rejection of the perspective of revolutionary organising: for the ultra-left there is no such thing as revolutionary organising, as there is only the working class that organises itself when the time is ripe. As there is no necessity of revolutionary organising, there is no need for any civil rights that would make revolutionary organising possible, or even human rights, for the matter. For ultra-leftists, there are no other human rights apart from communism. Communism is as far from Ukraine as it is from the separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine, so occupation is just as good or bad as the bourgeois parliamentary system. Thus ultra-leftists may as well call Ukrainian soldiers to desert in case of an invasion. An ultra-leftist does not care about anarchists or other activists getting tortured or disappearing to the basements of the occupiers, as activists are useless anyway. These ultra-left concepts are not only popular among the few self-described ultra-leftists of today, but also among all the anti-organisationalist anarchists, which has been the mainstream of the anarchist movement at least since the Greek uprising of 2008. Anti-organisationalist anarchist concepts are often indistinguishable from council communists and the ultra-left, as the former draws heavily from the 1930’s council communism via heritage of the Situationist International.
In contrast to the ultra-leftists and anti-organisational anarchists, supporters of anarchist activism and organising may never face with indifference the prospect of a complete destruction of their movement, which would be the result of the Russian occupation. Obviously, activist anarchists also should not have any illusions of the consequences of a victory over Russian occupation. In case occupation were to be beaten by the resistance, victory would not result in a social revolution, but return to the situation of early 2014 in Ukraine, and perhaps to year 1991 in Russia. That is, situation of possibility for revolutionary organising, rather than its complete suppression.
But these are all historical curiosities. Russian occupation of Ukraine is currently unlikely, and it is generally impossible to choose a «correct position» from all the possible future scenarios.
In case of an unlikely full-scale invasion, the goal would be to thwart Russian advance and to cause maximum losses to the invading army, both during the initial phase of frontal war and in the following guerilla warfare. I think there is a good chance that the occupied Ukraine would be ungovernable. Thus the economic and human cost of the Ukrainian invasion could eventually bring down the entire Putinist regime. In contrast, the Chechen, Syrian and Georgian invasions, for example, were relatively cheap in terms of human losses and economic costs, and were therefore never that unpopular in Russia.
And there are several demands that should be raised here and now. For example, Germany, and possibly also Finland, are currently actively preventing Ukraine from gaining arms. It is not surprising that EU citizens are not eager to go to war for Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government does not have the finances to build an army that would match Russia’s. But by refusing even those small sales that the Ukrainian government might afford is just playing to the hands of the Kreml. Antiauthoritarians in Russia should oppose aggressive posturing of Kreml, and antiauthoritarians in the European Union should oppose attempts to sabotage Ukraine’s self-defence.
*) Bakunin has a similar, but less cited quote.
There are some factual
There are some factual historical mistakes / approximations in this text :
During the second world war, anarchists in practically every Nazi occupied European country, cooperated with the «mainstream» resistance movement, although these were controlled by stalinists or bourgeois nationalists.
regarding the participation of anarchists i nFrench resistance, and especially the spainsh refugees, first it has been a long debate inside spansih CNT. Not all agreed to join the resistance considering it was not their business, as France did not help them in Spain against Franco. Second, those who eventually decided to join resistance inisted in organizing separated units, only from anarchists, with their full autonomy of command and action, making clear they were not fighting to liberate France but against fascism and for the world revolution. And they certainly did not cooperate with the stalinist, on the contrary ... ****://cnt-ait.info/2020/07/19/barrage-de-laigle/
"In France, anarchist refugees from Spanish CNT joined the Free France army, lead by general de Gaulle, and eventually ended up liberating Paris —" Formaly those who joined the Free French Army where in Algeria or Tunisia, and they enlist not as a decision of CNT but on individual basis. And even inside the army, they maintained the anarchist principles, something that puzzled the Free French Army officers, execept their direct officer, Drone, who understood that if he wated to get the best from thos experienced solidiers he had to let them do by their rules ...
regarding Algeria, it is more complex. "French anarcho-communists did not declare that they are «Against French and Algerian nationalism». Instead, they provided concrete support to Algerian rebels." Well in fact it is more complex. They dindt supported the FLN rebels but their rivals of MTLD ... And some of the former of them, long time after, expressed some regrets they have particpated to this nationalist adventure as the free algeria not became a free state as their dreamt about ...
Well, this said, i agree with you that in face of oppresion and risk of physical suppresion, anarchists has to organize and fight against the most dangerous ennemy - which is certainly russian imperialism at this moment. But always using our own tactics and strategy, and avoiding as much as possible compromises with ennemies even if they are only potential currently while other are reals.
"Obviously, American imperialism exists, for example in Iraq and Central America, but not in Ukraine."
That's a ridiculous statement. I think Alex Callinicos has written an excellent reply to this line of argument:
First of all I thank you very
First of all I thank you very much allowing for me to reach you without going through the Big Brothers (hustlers or spirit peddlers, called media giants) such as facebook, twitter et al.
In this context I would like to quote D. H. Lawrence to show you don't have to be an official anarchist to make very profound observation about our situation now.
" The great SPIRITUALITY of our age means that we are all physically repulsive to one another. The great advance in refinement of feeling and squeamish fastidiousness means that we hate the physical existence of anybody and everybody, even ourselves. The amazing move into abstraction on the part of the whole of humanity – the film, the radio, the gramophone – means that we loathe the physical element in our amusements, we don’t want the physical contact, we want to get away from it. We don’t want to look at flesh and blood people–we want to watch their shadows on a screen. We don’t want to hear their actual voices: only transmitted through a machine. We must get away from the physical."
A comment on the following phrase:
As Malatesta said, “For me there is no doubt that the worst of democracies is always preferable, if only from the educational point of view, than the best of dictatorships.”*.
In seventeenth century England, in a pub, people were discussing how best to protect themselves from the onslaught of ruling thugs — king-queen and their new aspirers — somebody said to ask for help from educated people. A cobbler present responded:
"Forget the educated people; they always side with the oppressors"
Now it is infinitely clearer that, except for the infinitely small numbers amongst the educated, they are the perfect bootlickers of all people on earth, but the myth goes on. They committed horrors against all living and non-living in vying with each other to serve their masters, no matter who they may be, yet they wash their hands by blaming on the uneducated people. I think you, like all the left over anarchists from 19th century and like the majority of 20th century anarchists believe, "The WEST is the BEST, but can be BETTER."
Do not forget that education is not only one of the biggest industries, if not the biggest, also the biggest brain washing factory along with media (Internet+Television+Journals, let alone the horrible daily life imposed by the masters of the world).
Where was the EDUCATION in the 90% of human history on earth?
Note: When the English revolutionaries in pub arrived in Americas and met the uneducated people, massacred or helped massacre them. Perhaps this may be historically incorrect (not the people in the pub) but historically too correct.
Why adhere to contextually understandable ideas without realizing that it is no longer as innocent as it may have been when Maletesta pronounced it? Education was promoted to achieve equality; it is the best producer of inequalities.
In any case, the article seems to be written by a blue eyed blond anarchist. Unfortunately that's all we have now: Chinese, Indians, Russians, all Asians, all Africans, all Middle Easterners have all been recreated as blue-eyed blond in image of the last reincarnation of the monster called Civilization, The West.
We are not born to be educated, we are born to live. An Inuit, referring to the educated people who study them, said it better than me:
"They torture us with their questions!"
After all the "democracy" is a cache-sex.
And here is what Marshall Sahlins says about the blondest and blue-eyeist of all, called US of AMER-ica:
"Even apart from a history of slavery, the same contradictions remain true for contemporary Americans who are pleased to believe they "live in a democracy" although they spend the far greater part of their lives in undemocratic institutions such as families, schools, capitalist workplaces—not to mention the military and bureaucratic organizations of government itself. Hey look, people: the democracy has no clothes."
An excellent piece. It
An excellent piece. It should be widely circulated among anarchists and on the "Left."
For further discussion of anarchists' reactions to World War II, I suggest my essay on the topic.
Price, Wayne (2015). “The Meaning of World War II—An Anarchist View.”
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