Anarchists Support Self-Determination for Ukraine - Wayne Price

Author
Submitted by albatross on May 30, 2023

What Did Bakunin Say About National Self-Determination?

This is a response to a challenge by Tridni Valka, a Czech anarchist group. They denounced an article of mine. I had defended anarchists who support the Ukrainian people in the Ukraine-Russian war.

Bakunin and other anarchists have supported oppressed nations and national self-determination, as part of their revolutionary program, as I demonstrate.

The Debate Goes On

Alex Alder wrote an article, “British Anarchism Succumbs to War Fever.” (Alder 2023) He was unhappy that many British, Eastern European, and other anarchists were supporting the Ukrainian people against the imperialist Russian invasion. I argued against his view in, “Are Anarchists Giving in to War Fever? In Defense of Anarchists Who Support the Ukrainian People.” (Price 2023)

My article was republished on the website of the Czech Anarchist Federation. Then Tridni Valka (Class War), another Czech anarchist grouping, wrote an angry response, denouncing my (and the Anarchist Federation’s) support for the Ukrainian people’s resistance. (Tridni Valka 2023) “The delay in our brief response can only be explained by the fact that it took us a long time to recover from [Wayne Price’s] text…” This is my response, in which I will try to cover key aspects of their argument.

Bakunin’s Views on National Self-Determination

Central to T.V.’s argument is a denial that anarchists might support any oppressed people or nation. “That ‘anarchists’ operate with the concept of nation is new to us! … Anarchists are opposed to nationhood and its material consequences such as the nation-state [and] national self-determination….Revolutionary anarchists have always held anti-national positions….”

This statement is factually untrue. It confuses the nation (community, people, country) and the nation-state (national government, with its ideology of nationalism) which anarchists have indeed always opposed. I have previously written an article on the anarchist Errico Malatesta, comrade of Bakunin and Kropotkin. (Price 2022) I demonstrated that he had supported the national rebellions and self-determination of oppressed peoples, even as he opposed wars between imperialist states (particularly World War I). But what was the opinion of Michael Bakunin, among the first revolutionary anarchists?

In his selection of Bakunin’s writings, Sam Dolgoff writes, “Bakunin argues that the nation-state is not a natural community. He defines the contrast between Nationality, ones natural love for the place and the people...and Patriotism, the absolute power of the state over its native subjects and conquered national minorities.” (1980; p. 401)

Then he quotes Bakunin: “Nationality, like individuality, is a natural fact. It denotes the inalienable right of individuals, groups, associations, and regions to their own way of life. And this way of life is the product of a long historical development [a confluence of human beings with a common history, language, and a common cultural background]. And this is why I will always champion the cause of oppressed nationalities struggling to liberate themselves from the domination of the state.” (Dolgoff, 1980, p. 401. My emphasis.)

By “the state” in this passage, he refers to the foreign state which dominates the oppressed nationality. By “nationality...is a natural fact,” he means, not that nationality is a biological fact, but that it is created mostly by unplanned, unpurposive, social history.

Bakunin also wrote, “Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom.” (quoted in Bonanno 1990, pp. 20–21)

Also, “Each individual, each association, commune, or province, each region and nation, has the absolute right to determine its own fate, to associate with others or not, to ally itself with whomever it will, or break any alliance....The right to unite freely and [to] separate with the same freedom is the most important of all political rights, without which confederation will always be disguised centralization.” (quoted in Guerin, Anarchism, 1970, p. 67)

In his book on anarchism, Daniel Guerin interpreted this statement: “True internationalism rests on self-determination, which implies the right of secession..” (p. 67) Guerin goes so far as to suggest that “Lenin… adopted this concept from Bakunin.” This is unlikely, since Lenin had little regard for anarchist theory. The concept was already widely known by that time.

As T.V. recognizes, the right of national self-determination was a bourgeois-democratic demand, created by capitalism, along with such demands as free speech, freedom of association, land to the peasants, the right to bear arms, election of officials, and so on. However, capitalism never fully granted these demands, especially now in its epoch of decline. They can only be consistently won through a revolution of the workers and oppressed. Therefore the fight for bourgeois-democratic demands has revolutionary implications in our time.

"For Bakunin, then, the achievement of national liberation had to be linked to the broader struggle for an international revolution. If nationality was separate from the state…it did not need the state for emancipation….” (van den Walt & Schmidt 2009; p. 64)

Nor was Lenin’s concept of national self-determination exactly the same as that of anarchists. Lenin argued that self-determination would result in voluntary merger into a world state which was homogeneous, integrated, and centralized. Anarchists aim for a decentralized, regionalized, and pluralistic world, with peoples connecting through networks and federations.

It should be clear that Bakunin (also Malatesta, and Dolgoff and Guerin) would not have agreed with T.V. that all “Anarchists are opposed to nationhood and…have always held anti-national positions…,” including opposition to national self-determination. Opposition to nationhood and anti-nationality is the opinion of T.V., but it is not the “anarchist” tradition.

This is summarized in Zoe Barker’s recent overview of anarchism: “For anarchists, this commitment to universal human solidarity entailed an opposition to imperialism and colonialism and the support of anti-colonial national liberation movements, such as those in Cuba, India, and Ireland. According to Maximoff, ‘the anarchists demand the liberation of all colonies and support every struggle for national independence….’ “ (2023; pp. 109–110)

She follows with the important addition, “This support included the belief that the main goal of national liberation movements—emancipation—could only be achieved through the methods of anarchism, rather than the establishment of a new state.” (same)

That is, the program of “nationalism” could lead to a formally independent state (as it did in Cuba, India, and Ireland), with its own flag, its own currency and postage stamps, its own president, army, police, and capitalists. The nation’s workers are still being exploited. True emancipation from the imperialist-dominated world market and great-power politics, will require an international working class revolution. Anarchists participate in national liberation struggles in order to spread this awareness and work toward this goal. As Lucien van der Walt writes, many anarchists seek

“…to participate in national liberation struggles in order to shape them, win the battle of ideas, [and] displace nationalism with a politics of national liberation through class struggle….Nationalism is only one current in national liberation or anti-imperialist struggles…National liberation struggles could develop into a variety of outcomes.” (van den Walt & Schmidt 2009; pp. 310–11)

I present all these quotations and citations, not because I think that Bakunin and other anarchists were always correct—which I do not. I am trying to refute the smugly ignorant claim that all “Anarchists are opposed to nationhood and…national self-determination.”

During the War

In summary, (1) revolutionary anarchists support the wars of oppressed nations against imperialists. These are not the same as wars where both sides are imperialist. (2) revolutionary anarchists are always in opposition to states, even including the states of oppressed nations, advocating popular revolutions against them.

This raises the question of what anarchists should be doing when a national war is raging (as in Ukraine versus Russian imperialist aggression) but they are too weak as yet for there to be a revolution against the state.

In my paper (the one which T.V. took so long to “recover from”), I used the example of the Spanish Civil War/Revolution (1936–39). The issue was not national self-determination but a fascist-military attempt to overthrow the established bourgeois-democratic government. The government was run by a “Popular Front” coalition of Socialists, Stalinists, liberal politicians, and the main anarcho-syndicalist organizations (the CNT union and the FAI anarchist federation). While fighting the fascist armies, the Popular Front proceded to re-build the weakened democratic capitalist state.

This policy was opposed by a revolutionary wing of the anarchists and syndicalists. (Evans 2020) One part of this wing was the Friends of Durruti Group. They called on the anarchist organizations to quit the government, to promote federations of self-managed industries and farms, to expropriate the capitalists and big landholders, and to federate workers and farmers councils and unions into a central body to run the war. Meanwhile by propaganda and action, they sought to persuade the majority of the working class to overturn the Popular Front regime and to make a revolution which could effectively defeat the fascist forces.

But they did not call on the workers to quit the armed forces which were fighting the fascist armies. After all, they criticized the Popular Front government for many things, but not for fighting the fascist military! (Similarly, anarchists should condemn the Ukrainian state for many things, but not for resisting the Russian invasion.)

Nor would the workers have understood a call for abandoning the army. They would have seen it as proposing surrender. (Similarly today, if anarchists told the Ukrainian workers to stop fighting because the Ukrainian army was organized by a bourgeois national state, the workers would rightly see this as a call to surrender to the Russians.)

The Friends of Durruti wrote, “There must be no collaboration with capitalism whether outside the bourgeois state or from within the government itself. As producers our place is in the unions….[But] class struggle is no obstacle to fight on in the battlefields and working in the war factories.

“….Revolutionary workers must not shoulder official posts nor establish themselves in the ministries. For as long as the war lasts, collaboration is permissible—on the battlefield, in the trenches, on the parapets, and in productive labor in the rearguard.” (Friends of Durruti Group 1978; pp. 35 & 38)

In fact, none of the Ukrainian anarchists, most of whom support the war effort, have joined the government, joined Zelensky’s party, called for votes for his party, or participated in the government in any other way.

T.V. disputes my understanding of the Friends of Durruti (FoD). “Wayne Price…didn’t understand their critique of the united front in the least.” (Actually the FoD did not critique the “united front”—a coalition of workers’ organizations. They advocated an alliance of revolutionary organizations. What they opposed was the “Popular Front”, the coalition of workers’ parties with capitalist parties as well as Stalinists.) T.V. points out that the FoD did not only oppose governmental collaboration of anarchists with political parties. They also opposed anarchists working outside of government to further capitalist aims—the effort to rebuild the bourgeois democratic Spanish state. I did not say otherwise.

But T.V. goes on to criticize the FoD themselves. “The Friends of Durruti did not demand the withdrawal of the anarchists from the front, but this proved to be a decisive error….” But the FoD did not advocate that anarchist fighters passively carry out the program of the collaborationists. They tried to create a revolutionary strategy of action to lead to revolution. Their “decisive error” was in not organizing soon enough to build a revolutionary alternative to the reformist leadership of the anarchists and socialists.

Class Reductionism

The basic method of T.V. is that of class reductionism, a crude (and illegitimate) version of Marxism. I take the essence of anarchism to be opposition to all forms of domination. Exploitation of the modern working class by the bourgeoisie, integrated with the state, is central to all oppression. It supports all non-class forms of oppression, and is, in turn, supported by them. This includes the oppression of women, African-Americans and other People of Color, LGBTQ people, people with “disabilities,” youth, as well as (our topic) national oppression. But while class exploitation overlaps with all other oppressions, they are not reducible to class exploitation. They also have their own dynamics.

But to T.V., the only oppression worth considering is the proletariat’s exploitation by capitalism. All others are distractions. T.V. and I agree that the working class needs to overcome its divisions into women and men, African Americans and Euro-Americans, straights and LGBTQ people, Czechs and Slovaks, Ukrainians and Russians, etc. These divisions cannot be overcome by ignoring them but only by defending the needs and freedoms of everyone, especially the most oppressed, the most exploited, including peoples facing the terror of imperialist aggression.

T.V. accuses the Czech Anarchist Federation and myself as being partially “in the camp of the warmongers who support the mutual massacre of proletarians in Ukraine.” This shows how far they have deviated from reality, in the service of their schematic abstractions. One side has chosen to make war. That is the imperialist state of Russia. It has invaded and occupied Ukraine, blown up its villages and cities, massacred its inhabitants, raped its women, tortured soldiers and civilians, kidnapped children, risked nuclear accidents at reactors, and sought to wipe out the Ukrainians as a culturally distinct people. The Ukrainian people have had the temerity to resist, which I suppose makes them “mutual warmongers” to T.V.—and to the Russian state. There is a French saying, “The animal is vicious. When attacked it defends itself.”

The anarchist-communists have not (yet?) persuaded the Ukrainian workers to overthrow capitalism and the state. So (unfortunately) the nationwide resistance is organized and led by the bourgeois state—although there is much bottom-up voluntary organizing. Lacking its own arms, the state has gotten military aid from Western imperialists. These do not really care about such things as democracy or national self-determination. They are out to expand their influence and weaken their Russian rival. But the Ukrainians have the right to take arms from whomever will offer them, rather than be crushed. Yet they should not be too trusting of the US and NATO, which would betray them in a breath, if it seemed to be in the imperialists’ interests.

I would not advise Ukrainian anarchists on their immediate tactics. But their overall strategy should have two interconnected goals. One is to drive out the Russians and defend the independence of the Ukrainians. The other is to spread the program of anarchism among the workers, soldiers, and other Ukrainians, with the eventual goal of an anti-state, anti-capitalist, revolution—by the working class and all oppressed, internationally. Even now, there is a need to oppose the government’s neo-liberal austerity and union-busting and to oppose nationalism in general and the far-right in particular.

The left, and not just anarchists, is deeply divided over the Ukraine-Russian war. The fundamental issue is whether to be on the side of the workers and other Ukrainians who are fighting for their very lives and independence, or whether to side with imperial elites offering only domination and destruction.

References

Alder, Alex (2023). “British Anarchism Succumbs to War Fever.” https://anarchistnews.org/comment/51586#comment-51586 ;

Baker, Zoe (2023). Means and Ends; The Revolutionary Practice of Anarchism in Europe and the United States. Chico CA: AK Press.

Bonanno (1990). Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle.

Dolgoff, Sam (ed.) (1980) Bakunin On Anarchism. Montreal CAN: Black Rose Books.

Evans, Danny (2020). Revolution and the State; Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War 1936—1939. Chico CA: AK Press.

Friends of Durruti Group (1978/1935). Towards a Fresh Revolution.

Sanday Orkney: Cienfuegos Press.

Guerin, Daniel (1970). Anarchism. NY: Monthly Review Press.

Price, Wayne (2022). “Malatesta on War and National Self-Determination” https://www.anarkismo.net/article/32666 search_text=Wayne+Price

Price, Wayne (2023). “Are Anarchists Giving in to War Fever? In Defense of Anarchists Who Support the Ukrainian People.” https://www.anarkismo.net/article/32731

Tridni Valka (May 2023) “What’s New in ‘Anarchism’? National Self-determination and the Coincidence of Interests with Capital?!”

https://www.autistici.org/tridnivalka/whats-new-in-anarchism-national-self-determination-and-the-coincidence-of-interests-with-capital/

van der Walt, Lucien, & Schmidt, Michael (2009). Black Flame; The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. Oakland CA: AK Press.

-- written for Anarkismo.net

Comments

Uncreative

1 year ago

Submitted by Uncreative on May 30, 2023

"In fact, none of the Ukrainian anarchists, most of whom support the war effort, have joined the government, joined Zelensky’s party, called for votes for his party, or participated in the government in any other way."

Anarchism is when you join the army but refuse on principle to vote for who will be in charge of what it does.

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 4, 2023

(Similarly, anarchists should condemn the Ukrainian state for many things, but not for resisting the Russian invasion.)

I agree that some of the anarchist/communist critiques of Ukrainian resistance have been quite bad (especially this idea that "'real' anarchism/Marxism has always stood on the side of the proletariat"... never mind all those farmers throughout history), but I think it's also worth noting that the war aims of the Ukrainian state are not a matter of mere resistance. Zelensky has already stated, for example, his interest in reclaimng Crimea (annexed in 2014), which has a majority (even before the annexation) of ethnic Russians population-wise. Russian officials have also threatened to employ nuclear weapons over a possible recapturing of Crimea and at various other points throughout the war. Even if you accept the idea that the Ukrainian state's resistance against Russia is "good" (I don't), clearly anarchists/communists should oppose such war objectives that have the strong possibility of sparking a nuclear conflict. One could also note how the Ukrainian government prevented men from fleeing with their families in order to fight; anarchists/communists should certainly be against such conscription. I think one should also not conflate a Ukrainian identity with the current Ukrainian government. Russian aims are not so much about destroying Ukraine as a culture or identity (though there have certainly been instances of this) than they are about the current Zelensky government and its policies.

Submitted by Steven. on June 4, 2023

Zelensky has already stated, for example, his interest in reclaimng Crimea (annexed in 2014), which has a majority (even before the annexation) of ethnic Russians population-wise.

not getting into the bigger picture here, but on this particular point, being an ethnic Russian doesn't really mean much necessary in this context, and certainly doesn't give a colonial power the moral rights of occupation. Otherwise up until a few months ago, British occupation of Northern Ireland would have been fine, as the majority of the population at that point considered themselves British. This argument is even less valid considering that the majority of the population Northern Ireland supported British occupation (and still do), whereas the majority of residents of Crimea, including ethnic Russians, voted to leave Russia and become part of an independent Ukraine in 1991.

I think one should also not conflate a Ukrainian identity with the current Ukrainian government. Russian aims are not so much about destroying Ukraine as a culture or identity (though there have certainly been instances of this) than they are about the current Zelensky government and its policies.

It is definitely true that some elements within the Russian state do talk about essentially eradicating Ukraine as a culture combination and identity. But your final sentence seems to be believing Russian propaganda, which is just not true at all. Regardless of any of the justification given by Russia for the invasion, it is clear that the Russian state generally sees much of the former Russian Empire (and USSR), as rightly part of a greater Russia. That is the overall justification for the invasion – as it was for the invasion and colonisation of much of the region historically, which continues to the present (Chechnya, Georgia, etc).

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 4, 2023

not getting into the bigger picture here, but on this particular point, being an ethnic Russian doesn't really mean much necessary in this context, and certainly doesn't give a colonial power the moral rights of occupation. Otherwise up until a few months ago, British occupation of Northern Ireland would have been fine, as the majority of the population at that point considered themselves British. this argument is even less valid. . . .

I'm not sure where I said that I support the 2014 annexation or the military action of any other state? It's not an argument I'm making.

. . . considering that the majority of the population Northern Ireland supported British occupation (and still do), whereas the majority of residents of Crimea, including ethnic Russians, voted to leave Russia and become part of an independent Ukraine in 1991.

The 1991 Referendum was not really about "separating from Russia"; the majority of Crimeans voted to become an autonomous soviet "socialist" republic rather than a Russian oblast. Can you find any recent (and reliable) surveys/referenda that say Crimeans reject the 2014 annexation or support greater independence from Russia?

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 5, 2023

I take it you're referring to the other 1991 referendum, or the 1991 Ukrainian Independence Referendum. There really is no disputing that Crimea has a large ethnic-Russian population that is (and has been) more sympathetic towards Russia than Ukraine. In the referendum you're referring to, Crimea was also the region that gave the least amount of support for leaving the Soviet Union, in addition to having one of the lowest voter turnouts. There have been other non-Russian surveys that show Crimean support for Crimea's 2014 integration into Russia (as one might expect with a majority Russian-speaking population). One can take the 2014 Pew Research Center poll:

For their part, Crimeans seem content with their annexation by Russia. Overwhelming majorities say the March 16th referendum was free and fair (91%) and that the government in Kyiv ought to recognize the results of the vote (88%).

If you don't believe the results of the Pew poll, then you can take some of the subsequent non-Russian surveys that repeat essentially the same thing (the 2015 GfK poll for example). Of course this doesn't mean that anarchists/communists should "respect Russian sovereignty" over Crimea, but it should make one reflect on whether Zelensky's vow to reclaim Crimea (as well as other contested regions) is simply a matter of "resistance" (it's not) and something we should all get behind.

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 5, 2023

If we want further evidence of Crimea's pro-Russian sympathies, here's some NBC reporters (hardly Russian propaganda) speaking with Crimean residents recently. They echo more or less what I said above, and which shouldn't be all that controversial:

“This is our land,” she said Monday. “We will all put on uniforms and will go to the border to defend ourselves.”Her comments echoed those of most people NBC News spoke to in Crimea this week. While the government of President Vladimir Putin has cracked down on free speech everywhere, including in Crimea, the peninsula’s majority Russian-speaking population was considered more pro-Moscow than in other parts of Ukraine when it was annexed.

Do we really think Crimea's ethnic-Russian majority is just "itching" to bring the war down South (crossing Putin's "red line") in order to be "liberated" by a people who don't even speak their language? Do we really think Putin/Russia is going to acquiesce to giving up their Black Sea Fleet or naval base in Sevastopol?

Submitted by Steven. on June 5, 2023

adri wrote: Do we really think Crimea's ethnic-Russian majority is just "itching" to bring the war down South (crossing Putin's "red line") in order to be "liberated" by a people who don't even speak their language?

That's not what I'm saying, I was pointing out that I disagreed with the implication of what you were saying: that a majority ethnic Russian population somehow justified Russian occupation. It's true that the vote in Crimea for Ukrainian independence was lower and had lower turnout than elsewhere, but it was still 54% vote in favour on a 65% turnout, which is a bigger margin than most governments/referendums get in most Western countries.
And again you appear to be distorting facts in order to try to justify support for Russia, with your facetious comment about Crimean is being "liberated by a people who don't even speak their language".
A big majority of Ukrainians speak fluent Russian, and many of them speak Russian as a first language, including Zelensky, who you have claimed is a big reason for the invasion.
You mention other opinion polls, but you failed to mention some other polls, where people in Crimea, for example, have also voted for full independence. But it seems that you are only interested in polls which help justify the Russian invasion...

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 6, 2023

That's not what I'm saying, I was pointing out that I disagreed with the implication of what you were saying: that a majority ethnic Russian population somehow justified Russian occupation.

And again you appear to be distorting facts in order to try to justify support for Russia, with your facetious comment about Crimean is being "liberated by a people who don't even speak their language".

I neither said nor implied any of this.

It's true that the vote in Crimea for Ukrainian independence was lower and had lower turnout than elsewhere, but it was still 54% vote in favour on a 65% turnout, which is a bigger margin than most governments/referendums get in most Western countries.

You mention other opinion polls, but you failed to mention some other polls, where people in Crimea, for example, have also voted for full independence. But it seems that you are only interested in polls which help justify the Russian invasion...

It's quite problematic if you can't acknowledge that there are Russian-sympathizers in Ukraine, and especially Crimea; I'm not just regurgitating Russian propaganda, unless you consider NBC News an outlet for Russian disinformation. This framing of Ukraine's war aims as merely "resistance," especially Zelensky's vow to reclaim Crimea, is just dangerous nonsense. It has the strong potential, for reasons already mentioned, of sparking a nuclear conflict, as Crimea is one of Putin's "red lines." I would like it if Crimeans were all anarchists/communists, but that is not the reality of the situation. The significant amount of Russian support in Crimea is also partly why some Ukrainian and American officials (at least those who aren't war hawks) have not been pushing Ukraine to recapture all of its former territory, and have instead been emphasizing negotiations. One should also consider the high-probability of retaliation against Russian-speaking Crimeans in the event of Ukraine's recapturing of the peninsula (perhaps similar to how KMT troops treated Taiwanese living under Japanese colonialism/occupation, regarding Taiwanese essentially as traitors). Language would also likely play a major role (as it already has in Ukraine) in this backlash or persecution, especially considering how Ukrainian is the only national and official language of Ukraine. Furthermore, a referendum from 32 years ago is not a particularly relevant source for understanding the politics or sympathies of contemporary Crimea. We could take, for starters, the fact that Ukrainians and Crimeans were voting on whether to separate from the Soviet Union, which is not the same as the Russian Federation. The political climate of mostly any country is bound to differ from how it was 32 years ago.

Submitted by Steven. on June 6, 2023

adri wrote:

That's not what I'm saying, I was pointing out that I disagreed with the implication of what you were saying: that a majority ethnic Russian population somehow justified Russian occupation.

And again you appear to be distorting facts in order to try to justify support for Russia, with your facetious comment about Crimean is being "liberated by a people who don't even speak their language".

I neither said nor implied any of this.

you literally did falsely claim that Ukrainians were "a people who don't even speak" Russian, when a majority of them do. So you can't deny you said that.
If your intention is not to imply or encourage people to at least tacitly support Russia, then why would you make that up?
In terms of the first quote, what you said, exactly, was this:

Zelensky has already stated, for example, his interest in reclaimng Crimea (annexed in 2014), which has a majority (even before the annexation) of ethnic Russians population-wise.

If you weren't trying to imply that a majority of ethnic Russians justified Russian occupation, then why did you even say that? What point where you trying to make?

It's quite problematic if you can't acknowledge that there are Russian-sympathizers in Ukraine, and especially Crimea

can you point out where I have said this?
I haven't said this. I have been merely pointing out that you have been selectively cherry picking information, and making false statements which favour the Russian state over the Ukrainian state. And I was showing how you can cherry pick information also showing the opposite.

One should also consider the high-probability of retaliation against Russian-speaking Crimeans in the event of Ukraine's recapturing of the peninsula

again, to me this looks like you are regurgitating Russian propaganda wholesale. Of course NBC News isn't Russian propaganda. But this blatantly is. So you think if Ukraine did retake Crimea (which I think is highly unlikely), Russian speakers (i.e. not active Russian supporters, just people who happened to speak Russian), will be targeted. Do you include Zelensky in that? Do you think he will be persecuted?
Even if there were some hypothetical llater retaliation, why is that somehow more important than the actual current persecution of Ukrainians in Russian-held territory, like the mass killings, the war crimes, the mass abductions of children etc?

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 6, 2023

you literally did falsely claim that Ukrainians were "a people who don't even speak" Russian, when a majority of them do. So you can't deny you said that.

A big majority of Ukrainians speak fluent Russian, and many of them speak Russian as a first language, including Zelensky, who you have claimed is a big reason for the invasion.

You're twisting what I said. The national and official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian—not Russian—and most Ukrainians regard Ukrainian as their mother tongue. I never said that Ukrainians can't understand Russian; many of them actually can. Obviously there are also Ukrainians who speak Russian as their first language, especially in Crimea, Odesa, and the Eastern portions of Ukraine (some of the contested regions with greater numbers of Russian-sympathizers funnily enough), but most Ukrainians do not speak Russian as their mother tongue.

Steven. wrote: In terms of the first quote, what you said, exactly, was this:

adri wrote: Zelensky has already stated, for example, his interest in reclaimng Crimea (annexed in 2014), which has a majority (even before the annexation) of ethnic Russians population-wise.

If you weren't trying to imply that a majority of ethnic Russians justified Russian occupation, then why did you even say that? What point where you trying to make?

It's obvious that I was referring to the fact that there are actually Russian-sympathizers in Crimea, and that Zelensky's interest in reclaiming Crimea is not a matter of mere "resistance." The fact of being an ethnic Russian and speaking Russian as a first language are important factors that play into, but obviously do not determine, one's support for Russia; this relationship should not be ignored. In the event of a Ukrainian recapturing of Crimea, Zelensky would come face to face with this sizable population, as the NBC News source and other non-Russian sources show, who don't actually support Ukraine. How on earth you construe that as me saying that "Crimea's ethnic-Russian majority justifies the Russian annexation of Crimea" is beyond me.

Submitted by Steven. on June 8, 2023

I don't think this discussion is particularly productive, as you are just dodging any question that you can't answer (e.g. why is potential persecution of Russian speakers are Ukrainians a bigger problem than actual war crimes against Ukrainians by Russia, would Zelensky face persecution by Ukrainians as a first-language Russian speaker? etc).
So this is probably the last reply I will make here.

adri wrote:

you literally did falsely claim that Ukrainians were "a people who don't even speak" Russian, when a majority of them do. So you can't deny you said that.

A big majority of Ukrainians speak fluent Russian, and many of them speak Russian as a first language, including Zelensky, who you have claimed is a big reason for the invasion.

You're twisting what I said. The national and official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian—not Russian—and most Ukrainians regard Ukrainian as their mother tongue. I never said that Ukrainians can't understand Russian

I'm not twisting what you said I'm literally quoting your exact words. You said they "don't even speak" Russian, when nearly 70% of Ukrainians speak fluent Russian. If you want to admit that what you said was incorrect, and distorted the facts in order to promote a pro-Russian occupation narrative, then fine.

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 8, 2023

I don't think this discussion is particularly productive, as you are just dodging any question that you can't answer (e.g. why is potential persecution of Russian speakers are Ukrainians a bigger problem than actual war crimes against Ukrainians by Russia, would Zelensky face persecution by Ukrainians as a first-language Russian speaker? etc).

I'm not responding to them because I haven't said nor implied any of what you're saying. Where did I say anything like "Russian atrocities in Ukraine are less important than a potential future retaliation against Crimeans"? Can you point to anywhere where I might have suggested something like that? I've never attempted to trivialize the massacres or atrocities committed by Russians in Ukraine, so I don't understand where you're coming up with this stuff.

Your question about Zelensky is just a non sequitur as he is not a current citizen of occupied/annexed Crimea and would thus be spared the consequences of an attempted Ukrainian "liberation" of the peninsula. If you're trying to ask whether native-Russian speakers in Ukraine have faced persecution since 2014, I don't think that's something you can really deny. There has been a tremendous push to purge Russian influence from Ukrainian society, as is partly evidenced by the 2019 state language law that requires people to speak Ukrainian in schools and in other areas of life. The fact that an increasing number of Russian-speaking Ukrainians have crammed into Ukrainian-language courses attests to how some people fear being caught speaking the "language of the enemy."

I'm not twisting what you said I'm literally quoting your exact words. You said they "don't even speak" Russian, when nearly 70% of Ukrainians speak fluent Russian. If you want to admit that what you said was incorrect, and distorted the facts in order to promote a pro-Russian occupation narrative, then fine.

Yes, you are twisting what I said, and I already spelled out what I meant when I really shouldn't have needed to. Ukrainian is the national and official language of Ukraine—not Russian—and most Ukrainians speak Ukrainian as their native and everyday language; I never said nor suggested that Ukrainians can't understand Russian. You're also just ignoring things like the 2019 language law that has put increasing pressure on minority languages like Russian, and which has also been criticized by international organizations (i.e. it's not merely Russian propaganda).

not getting into the bigger picture here, but on this particular point, being an ethnic Russian doesn't really mean much necessary in this context, and certainly doesn't give a colonial power the moral rights of occupation [an argument that I, a literal communist, never made]. Otherwise up until a few months ago, British occupation of Northern Ireland would have been fine, as the majority of the population at that point considered themselves British. This argument is even less valid [i.e. the argument that I never made] considering that the majority of the population Northern Ireland supported British occupation (and still do), whereas the majority of residents of Crimea, including ethnic Russians, voted to leave Russia and become part of an independent Ukraine in 1991.

I don't think this discussion is particularly productive. . . .

It seems that you're actually just trying to wiggle your way out of a losing argument after attempting to deny the massive support for Russia within Crimea—I can't think of any other reason why you would cite stuff like the 1991 Ukrainian Independence Referendum from 32 years ago.

Submitted by Steven. on June 9, 2023

adri wrote:

I don't think this discussion is particularly productive, as you are just dodging any question that you can't answer (e.g. why is potential persecution of Russian speakers are Ukrainians a bigger problem than actual war crimes against Ukrainians by Russia

I'm not responding to them because I haven't said nor implied any of what you're saying. Where did I say anything like "Russian atrocities in Ukraine are less important than a potential future retaliation against Crimeans"?

You have stated clearly that potential persecution of Russian speakers by Ukraine is a reason not to support Ukrainian "resistance" against Russia. You haven't said anything at all about any reasons why people might not support the Russian invasion. Maybe this is not your intention, but you seem to therefore be supportive of the Russian invasion. These general points and arguments you have been making, are also frequently made on Twitter by people with Stalin profile pictures and Russian flags in their profile names. Who, like you, talk about the persecution of Russian speakers, while saying nothing about mass killings, abductions of children, desires of some to erase Ukraine as a country.

I never said nor suggested that Ukrainians can't understand Russian.

You literally claimed that Ukrainians "don't even speak" Russian. While you aren't admitting you actually said that, you have acknowledged it is false. Everyone can see what you said, so let's just move on from here.

It seems that you're actually just trying to wiggle your way out of a losing argument after attempting to deny the massive support for Russia within Crimea

that is a very weird comment. I entered this discussion to make 2 points, which I did in my initial post. The first was in response to you arguing against support for Ukraine because Crimea had a "majority... of ethnic Russians population-wise." Pointing out that this was not an argument, any more than Germany had a right to occupy foreign areas with large numbers of ethnic Germans.

Secondly, it was to address this frankly ludicrous claim of yours:

Russian aims are not so much about destroying Ukraine as a culture or identity (though there have certainly been instances of this) than they are about the current Zelensky government and its policies.

And you haven't even revisited this point because it is clearly ridiculous. Not to mention it does clearly deny the frankly genocidal aims of some elements of the Russian elite. Even Putin has quite clearly claimed that Ukraine has no claim to statehood, and is basically Russian.

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 9, 2023

You have stated clearly that potential persecution of Russian speakers by Ukraine is a reason not to support Ukrainian "resistance" against Russia.

My original argument was actually that I disagree with the portrayal of Ukrainian war aims, such as Zelensky's vow to recapture Crimea, as simply a matter of "resistance." It's not an act of "resistance" when you want to recapture territory in which there is a sizable population who do not seek "liberation" to begin with, to say nothing about Crimea being one of Putin's "red lines." In the event of a Ukrainian recapturing of Crimea, there could also be, as I mentioned, some form of retaliation against Crimea's majority Russian-speaking population who have mostly supported Russia.

So what do you think? Is "liberating" Crimea an act of "resistance" we should all get behind?

You haven't said anything at all about any reasons why people might not support the Russian invasion. Maybe this is not your intention, but you seem to therefore be supportive of the Russian invasion. These general points and arguments you have been making, are also frequently made on Twitter by people with Stalin profile pictures and Russian flags in their profile names. Who, like you, talk about the persecution of Russian speakers, while saying nothing about mass killings, abductions of children, desires of some to erase Ukraine as a country.

It sort of goes without saying that one should not support the Russian invasion or Russian atrocities in Ukraine. Do I really need to provide reasons? I'm not sure how you got the idea that I'm some pro-Russian tankie just because I want to avoid bloodshed in Crimea (whereas you seem to want to "liberate" the place and potentially throw the entire region into a nuclear conflict?). I have literally only been citing reputable non-Russian polls, primary sources like the results of the 1991 Ukrainian Referendum, NBC News and Human Rights Watch. There's nothing "pro-Russian" about any of my sources or arguments.

You literally claimed that Ukrainians "don't even speak" Russian. While you aren't admitting you actually said that, you have acknowledged it is false. Everyone can see what you said, so let's just move on from here.

You continue twisting what I said, even after I spelled it out for you. Ukrainian is the national and official language of Ukraine—not Russian—and most Ukrainians speak Ukrainian as their native and everyday language. My original statement might have been ambiguous for some, but for most it was obvious that I was referring to the fact that Ukrainian is the dominant language within Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has even enacted laws prioritizing the use of Ukrainian over Russian within Ukrainian society, which has been criticized by international organizations like Human Rights Watch. I never intended my original comment to suggest that Ukrainians do not understand Russian, as many Ukrainians obviously do.

I entered this discussion to make 2 points, which I did in my initial post. The first was in response to you arguing against support for Ukraine because Crimea had a "majority... of ethnic Russians population-wise." Pointing out that this was not an argument, any more than Germany had a right to occupy foreign areas with large numbers of ethnic Germans.

I never argued "against support for Ukraine"—you're quite good at distorting literally everything I say. I argued against the portrayal of Ukraine's war aims, particularly the recapturing of contested regions like Crimea, as simply a matter of "resistance." I was referencing the considerable support for Russia with my comment about Crimea's majority ethnic-Russian population. I also substantiated this claim by citing reputable non-Russian polls and other sources to show that there is indeed a sizable Crimean population who are sympathetic towards Russia. I never defended nor endorsed the Russian annexation of Crimea on the basis of Crimea's ethnic-Russian majority; this is just something you've made up.

Steven. wrote: Secondly, it was to address this frankly ludicrous claim of yours:

adri wrote: Russian aims are not so much about destroying Ukraine as a culture or identity (though there have certainly been instances of this) than they are about the current Zelensky government and its policies.

And you haven't even revisited this point because it is clearly ridiculous. Not to mention it does clearly deny the frankly genocidal aims of some elements of the Russian elite. Even Putin has quite clearly claimed that Ukraine has no claim to statehood, and is basically Russian.

Regardless of any of the justification given by Russia for the invasion, it is clear that the Russian state generally sees much of the former Russian Empire (and USSR), as rightly part of a greater Russia. That is the overall justification for the invasion – as it was for the invasion and colonisation of much of the region historically, which continues to the present (Chechnya, Georgia, etc).

I didn't feel like "revisiting it" because you make ludicrous accusations of me being "pro-Russian." I was also more concerned with disputing your claim that Crimea is against Russia on the basis of a 32-year-old referendum. Putin and other Russian elements have certainly downplayed the distinctiveness of a Ukrainian identity, in addition to emphasizing/misportraying the historical relationship between Ukrainians and Russians, but I'm not entirely convinced that Putin would have invaded Ukraine merely on the basis of his pro-Russian historical beliefs (see his essay for reference) or his anti-Ukrainian sentiments. I think security interests played a major (though by no means exclusive) role in the invasion, especially the expansion of NATO and the arming of Ukraine by the West. Putin's 2014 annexation of Crimea was also to a large extent motivated by the desire to maintain their naval base in Sevastopol (which Russia had been allowed to retain following the dissolution of the Soviet Union), especially in light of the overthrow of the Russian-friendly government in Kyiv. That's certainly not all, but that's part of the explanation for Russian behavior or aggression towards Ukraine.

Red Marriott

1 year ago

Submitted by Red Marriott on June 13, 2023

From a casual reading of this thread I didn’t get the same impression that Steven did. Maybe that’s cos I haven’t been reading lots of social media arguments on the topic where certain positions may look to bear a passing similarity to tankies. But I’m more unsure about Steven’s position; on the basis of some similarity to pro-Ukrainian nationalist positions; eg –
Steven

the frankly genocidal aims of some elements of the Russian elite. Even Putin has quite clearly claimed that Ukraine has no claim to statehood, and is basically Russian.

In what sense do the Russian ruling class have “genocidal aims”? To literally wipe out all ethnic/national Ukrainians? Has that been explicitly expressed? Or do you mean simply murderous war crimes that commonly occur in such conflicts? Or to destroy Ukraine as a nation state?
It seems very problematic – especially for anti-statists/anarchists - to either conflate or not clearly distinguish between the desire to destroy/consume territorially a nation state and an intended holocaust. The two goals may not always be separate but are distinct. If you don’t make that distinction it’s easy to see that as defence of the Ukrainian nation state and their “claim to statehood”.

Submitted by Steven. on June 13, 2023

adri wrote:

You have stated clearly that potential persecution of Russian speakers by Ukraine is a reason not to support Ukrainian "resistance" against Russia.

My original argument was actually that I disagree with the portrayal of Ukrainian war aims, such as Zelensky's vow to recapture Crimea, as simply a matter of "resistance." It's not an act of "resistance" when you want to recapture territory in which there is a sizable population who do not seek "liberation" to begin with

I don't think the issue is as straightforward as this. Plenty of occupying colonial powers abuse and engineered demographic change to justify colonial occupation, like Britain in Northern Ireland, or Israel.

So what do you think? Is "liberating" Crimea an act of "resistance" we should all get behind?

This is a hypothetical at this point. Personally I doubt this will become an actual issue. Then again, before the invasion happened I didn't think that Russia would actually do it. So I'm not great at foreseeing the future.

You haven't said anything at all about any reasons why people might not support the Russian invasion. Maybe this is not your intention, but you seem to therefore be supportive of the Russian invasion. These general points and arguments you have been making, are also frequently made on Twitter by people with Stalin profile pictures and Russian flags in their profile names. Who, like you, talk about the persecution of Russian speakers, while saying nothing about mass killings, abductions of children, desires of some to erase Ukraine as a country.

It sort of goes without saying that one should not support the Russian invasion or Russian atrocities in Ukraine. Do I really need to provide reasons? I'm not sure how you got the idea that I'm some pro-Russian tankie just because I want to avoid bloodshed in Crimea

The reasons I thought that is because the people I've seen making the same arguments as you (i.e. arguments only aimed against Ukrainians, not Russians), are pro-Russian tankies and fascists. Fair enough though if that is not your view. But I think you should bear in mind how it comes across to some people.

(whereas you seem to want to "liberate" the place and potentially throw the entire region into a nuclear conflict?)

if you could point out anywhere where I have said this, please feel free. But of course I do support the overthrowing of the Russian state in Crimea and everywhere else. As I would assume you do as well? So does that mean you also support nuclear war?

Red Marriott wrote: From a casual reading of this thread I didn’t get the same impression that Steven did. Maybe that’s cos I haven’t been reading lots of social media arguments on the topic where certain positions may look to bear a passing similarity to tankies. But I’m more unsure about Steven’s position; on the basis of some similarity to pro-Ukrainian nationalist positions; eg –
Steven

the frankly genocidal aims of some elements of the Russian elite. Even Putin has quite clearly claimed that Ukraine has no claim to statehood, and is basically Russian.

In what sense do the Russian ruling class have “genocidal aims”? To literally wipe out all ethnic/national Ukrainians?

Please note I did very clearly say that the genocidal aims are of some elements of the Russian elite only, not the whole thing. I'm referring to "genocide" using the standard UN definition: “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such.”

Here is a compilation of rhetoric by various high-powered Russians essentially talking about eliminating Ukraine as an independent national or ethnic group: https://www.justsecurity.org/81789/russias-eliminationist-rhetoric-against-ukraine-a-collection/

There are also specific widespread warcrimes, which could be seen as genocidal in nature, such as the mass abduction of around thousands of Ukrainian children, many of whom have been forcibly adopted by Russian families. Certainly this has been a feature of other genocides, such as that of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the US, Australia, etc.

Or to destroy Ukraine as a nation state?
It seems very problematic – especially for anti-statists/anarchists - to either conflate or not clearly distinguish between the desire to destroy/consume territorially a nation state and an intended holocaust. The two goals may not always be separate but are distinct. If you don’t make that distinction it’s easy to see that as defence of the Ukrainian nation state and their “claim to statehood”.

I totally see that. And no, I don't see that anyone wants to eliminate everyone who currently lives in Ukraine. However, I also do think it important not to forget about those elements of the Russian elite who do want to eliminate Ukrainians as Ukrainians, to just recreate a culturally homogenous Russian Empire (which of course doesn't stop with Ukraine, or "the policies of Zelensky", but includes pretty much all of the old territories of the Russian Empire.

adri

1 year ago

Submitted by adri on June 14, 2023

I don't think the issue is as straightforward as this. Plenty of occupying colonial powers abuse and engineered demographic change to justify colonial occupation, like Britain in Northern Ireland, or Israel.

Except that Crimea's ethnic-Russian majority, as I mentioned in my first post, preceded the 2014 annexation and was not the result of some "Lebensraum policy" of re-population on the part of the Russian government. Russia has certainly encouraged Russian settlement in Crimea since the 2014 annexation (partly to help create a loyal population), but Crimea's ethnic-Russian and Russophilic majority has a quite long history. The fact that Russia has encouraged Russian settlement in Crimea since the 2014 annexation, or has engineered demographic changes, is also hardly any reason to support Zelensky's ambitions to reclaim it; there would still be a sizable Crimean population who are opposed, even more so now, to the Ukrainian state.

But of course I do support the overthrowing of the Russian state in Crimea and everywhere else. As I would assume you do as well? So does that mean you also support nuclear war?

Are you planning on overthrowing the Russian government any time soon? Or are you suggesting that a Ukrainian recapturing of Crimea (which is simply madness, as any person who is not a Western war hawk or some crazed Ukrainian ultra-nationalist can plainly see) has something in common with anarchist/communist objectives? Being opposed to states in principle is quite different from leading an assault on the Russian government in Crimea with an army of over half a million.

Rob Ray

1 year ago

Submitted by Rob Ray on June 14, 2023

Coming back to this after a while of not bothering reading it, this purity-testing for "aha you're really some sort of nationalist" gotchas really is the most tedious thing.

sherbu-kteer

1 year ago

Submitted by sherbu-kteer on June 14, 2023

I don't think it's "purity-testing" for a communist to be criticised for supporting a bourgeois government. This isn't a "gotcha" thing, people like Wayne Price are explicitly saying they support people fighting and dying for the Ukrainian military in the name of national liberation.

Rob Ray

1 year ago

Submitted by Rob Ray on June 14, 2023

Yeah yeah keep at it, no doubt Keyword Court will remain as useful a way to progress a conversation now as it was a year ago. I'll continue leaving you to it I think.