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Friday, 12 February 2016

Russia in Crisis: the Agonies of the Oil Empire

Small business desperate to stop its demolition by Moscow City government display a Putin portrait

Reblogged with permission from LeftEast. Translated from the Russian by Emma Clair Foley.

Author Ilya Budraitskis is a historian, cultural and political activist. Since 2009 he is Ph.D. student at the Institute for World History, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow. In 2001-2004 he organized Russian activists in mobilizations against the G8, in European and World Social Forums. Since 2011 he has been an activist and spokesperson for Russian Socialist Movement. Member of Editorial board of “Moscow Art Magazine”. Regular contributor to the number of political and cultural websites.


Everyone understands that the coming year will see Russia immersed in an economic crisis, one which will almost inevitably entail a social and political crisis. It was already over a year ago that Vladimir Putin, while taking part in his favorite genre of television, “direct association with the people,” assured viewers that the crisis was a matter of temporary difficulties which would be successfully overcome within a year or two. These assertions are not simply a propagandist’s device, but a reflection of deeply-rooted elements of the consciousness of Russia’s ruling elite, accustomed as they are to switching out strategy for tactics and reacting to challenges as they arise. This consciousness is the result of an unbroken decade of increase in oil prices during which the entire domestic economy was tightly bound to the export of natural resources.

The windfall from oil sales both created the sense that Russia’s foreign policy muscle was strengthening and guaranteed a constant rise in state spending. The army, the bureaucratic apparatus and the murky system of government procurements received the bulk of this beneficence. Nevertheless, the growth in spending in the social sphere was seen as more of a residual effect, and education and medicine have always been regarded as the first things to sacrifice when money is short.

The years of oil prosperity fostered the growth of an ugly social model in which the inflation of energy resource prices on speculation compensated for the decline of production, a phenomenal level of social inequality, corruption, and increasingly systemic authoritarian political power protecting the interests of the elite. Vladimir Putin’s popularity rested (and, for now, still rests) on this uncertain foundation. Key to this popularity was the widespread notion that because of his ruthlessness, Putin is the one person who is capable of guaranteeing “stability,” an enduring trajectory of national growth protected from any risk of shake-ups.

Protesting lorry drivers hope for some words from the Tsar
The most valuable insight here for the majority of Russia’s residents is that “Putinist stability” is now most definitely a thing of the past, and that the Russian elite has no backup plan for redeeming the situation. By last year it had already become clear that the government’s anti-crisis politics boils down to a local variety of austerity outdoing even the current politics of EU governments in its ruthlessness. It consists of sharply reduced social spending, forced pension reform (a proposed increase in the retirement age to 65), the refusal on principle to index salaries to the rate of inflation (12.9% last year) and more taxes and fees collected from the population. The weakening of the ruble, restrained with the help of currency reserves introduced onto the market and increased interests rates at the Central Bank, made loans inaccessible to small- and medium-sized business and contributed further to the economy’s collapse.

The state budget for 2016, in accordance with this crisis, is based on calculation that set the median price of oil at $50 a barrel, but it has already fallen below $30. Although the government has not yet publicly considered revising it, the Minister of Finance has already recommended that all other departments reduce spending by 10%.

The situation is exacerbated by the current system of revenue distribution between Moscow and the regions, in which all revenue becomes part of the federal budget, only then to be recounted into local budgets. The result is a growing tension between the government and regional authorities, who must bear responsibility for these “austerity measures” before the people. At the same time, in an effort to maintain his popularity, the president publicly demands from them demonstrations of “social commitment,” putting them in an impossible situation.

The sharp decline in government revenues exposes the vulnerability of Putin’s “power verticals,” that is, the complete political dependence of local powers on the center combined with their economic “autonomy” (that is, responsibility for fulfilling budget responsibilities). The political losses incurred from austerity must be shouldered by the federal government headed by Dmitri Medvedev or local governors—anyone but the president, whose popularity should not under any circumstance suffer as a result of a reduction in the quality of life of the people who support him.

The figure of Putin as a “national leader” is the main basis of legitimacy for those in power in the eyes of the majority. The irony of the situation lies in the fact that people trust their president, but they don’t trust the state he represents. In these catastrophic conditions the Putin political machine is preparing for parliamentary elections, which are set to take place in September 2016. Like all previous elections, they will have to conform to the script written by the Kremlin. It currently appears to name “United Russia” as the majority in Parliament, while casting Medvedev as the victim of growing passive dissatisfaction. The “independent” candidates, as well as the kept opposition (including the communists and Zhirinovsky’s party) will attack the government for its antisocial austerity measures, but the president will remain beyond the reach of critics.

This guiding script may get out of control and provoke a wave of public disturbances (as happened in December 2011, after the previous parliamentary elections). The principal difference today may turn out to be the combination of political protests against an antidemocratic system and social protests against poverty and the government’s neoliberal policies. 2015 saw a serious uptick in local protests in connection with delays in the disbursement of salaries, job cuts and unnecessary new taxes. In December demonstrations by truck drivers indignant at new, extremely high road tolls took place in nearly half of all regions of the country. In some cities, there were protest actions against harsh limitations placed on state medical coverage. On the whole, experts estimate that there have been 409 protests in the past year linked to the violation of workers’ rights (168 of which took the form of work stoppages). That’s 76% more than the average for the period 2008-2013.

The economic crisis along with the regular political cycle (parliamentary elections in 2016 and presidential elections in 2018), will unavoidably provoke and strengthen divisions within the elite. The possible battle lines can already be faintly seen: between Moscow and regional powers; between government finance experts and army lobbyists, who will insist on an increase in the defense budget in the face of “external threat,” and among state corporations, demanding all new subsidies from the state budget to finance their huge debts.

In the attempt to maintain the existing balance of forces, the regime must revisit their foreign policy of the past two years, including the war that is still dragging on in Ukraine, conflict with the west and the developing military engagement in Syria. Moscow is already taking active steps toward the removal of US and EU sanctions. For the first time since the moment that Russia annexed Crimea, direct negotiations over the fate of Donbas began in Kiev in between Ukrainian president Poroshenko and Russian representative Boris Gryzlov (a member of Putin’s inner circle of “friends”). This meeting was followed by an hours-long consultation between the Kremlin’s main “facilitator” of Ukrainian affairs and Assistant US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. The repeal of the sanctions is necessary for the Russian government, among other reasons to enable large-scale foreign loans to augment depleted national financial resources. Dependence on oil prices could soon be completely replaced by another dependency—this time on international creditors.

All of this means that Russia is on the threshold of serious changes, which in the short term indicate an end to “Putinism” as a system—at least as we have known it during these “fat” years.

See also:

Monday, 25 January 2016

Putin is persecuting Russian anarchists + antifa

Dmitry Buchenkov. CC

Reblogged with permission.


By Dmitry Okrest.

At the beginning of December, Dmitry Buchenkov became the latest person in Russia’s ‘Bolotnaya Case’, a series of investigations and trials into Russia’s opposition now in its fourth year.

Buchenkov, a 36-year old history lecturer at a Moscow medical university, is the 31st defendant in Bolotnaya. More than two hundred people were detained in the initial case, which stretches back to the ‘March of the Millions’, an opposition demonstration on the eponymous square in May 2012. The protest was timed to coincide with the inauguration of Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term, and this didn’t go unnoticed. During the sanctioned demonstration, the police cut off the square, in effect ‘kettling’ the protesters. Scuffles started between police and protesters, and a pitched battle of sorts began before the crowd was violently dispersed.

The prosecutions made against protest leaders, and allegations of geopolitical conspiracy, have come to symbolise the Kremlin’s response to the ‘Russian winter’ of 2011-2012. Despite the extent of the investigation and trial, Bolotnaya is yet to receive attention inside, or outside Russia. Journalists and activists are less and less interested. Only the police are still following it in numbers.

Yet the payback for Bolotnaya continues. On 22 December, Ivan Nepomnyashchikh, an engineer from the Moscow region, received a two and a half year prison sentence for participating in ‘mass disorder’, the charge against the majority of Bolotnaya defendants. By the time Buchenkov was arrested in early December, the first defendants from 2012-2014 were already on their way out of prison.

Dmitry Buchenkov will now face trial for turning over a chemical toilet on 6 May 2012. The prosecution’s main evidence is a photograph of a 30-year old man on Bolotnaya who looks nothing like Buchenkov.

Costly convictions

‘Buchenkov was an active member of the left-wing movement behind Autonomous Action, a large organisation of libertarian communists, which had dozens of groups in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine before it split,’ Aleksandr, a young anti-fascist, tells me. ‘Unlike most of the young anarchists who were detained during the march, Buchenkov's name was comparatively well-known’, he added.

‘Power exists and shall continue to do so for as long as human societies exist,’ notes Buchenkov in a letter to me. ‘The task of libertarian communism is not to destroy power, instead we should organise it in the form of self-government, on a socialist basis. The political task of anarcho-communism is to organise power in non-governmental forms.’

Indeed, Buchenkov’s arrest is another instance of the Russian authorities’ focus on anarchists and anti-fascists. Buchenkov now joins fellow members of Autonomous Action in jail—Aleksei Gaskarov, sentenced as part of Bolotnaya, and Aleksei Sutuga, who was charged with fighting against neo-Nazis in September 2014. For the past six months, Sutuga has been denied correspondence and held in solitary confinement.

Buchenkov’s investigator Aleksei Dobarin has form in this area. Dobarin has previously worked on the Bolotnaya case, investigating Vladimir Akimenkov and Leonid Rukavishnikov, activists from the far left Russian organisation Left Front (and who have condemned Russia’s actions in south-east Ukraine). Prior to Bolotnaya, Dobarin worked in the Kaluga region, some 70 km from Moscow, where he investigated nationalist and neo-Nazi groups.

As Aleksandr, the young anti-fascist, tells me, in the three years he’s known Buchenkov, the latest figure in Bolotnaya has had several encounters with the security services. Police officials would greet him at demonstrations, and he was threatened after starting a social club; once he was beaten to the point of losing consciousness.

But Buchenkov remained active. Forced to leave his work in a Nizhny Novgorod university, he moved to Moscow in 2009. Following Russia's 2015 economic crisis and multiple economic sanctions after the annexation of Crimea, he decided to publish a free newspaper, which he handed out to people coming to the Russian capital looking for work from the regions.

Despite the general fatigue of Russia’s civil society, Buchenkov’s case has attracted its attention—the defendant’s lawyer Svetlana Sidorkina is yet to gain access to the case. Instead, at the first hearing, Buchenkov was represented by a legal aid lawyer appointed by the Interior Ministry, who had previously worked as a police investigator in Siberia. More than 70 legal professionals have since signed an open letter questioning this behaviour.

Yet Buchenkov has few chances for solidarity from like-minded people in Europe. Following Maidan and the war in Ukraine, the European left has split once again.

Who are your comrades now?

The active participation of the far right in EuroMaidan, the war in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea has brought disarray to the left in Europe. Most were confused as to what position to take. After EuroMaidan, Kyiv was seen as ripe for revolutionary change. For others Russia—which opposed these changes—was an opponent of a unipolar world and thus an example to follow.

Russia’s alternative banner, as heralded by Russia Today, remains out of sight for Russian citizens themselves. The majority of programmes on the emancipatory potential of the Kurdish women’s movement or Julian Assange’s interview with the leader of Hezbollah aren’t accessible to Russian audiences. Only a few programmes come with Russian subtitles.

RT’s ‘western’ pull is effective. Last year, I interviewed Vicenzo Bellantoni, secretary of Italy’s Communist Refoundation Party, which had organised a series of lectures and concerts across Europe in support of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ (DNR).

As Bellantoni saw it, the DNR was involved in a ‘mass anti-fascist struggle against an illegal fascist and reactionary government, which had come to power as a result of an armed coup. All communist movements are united in the people’s struggle, and we intend to resist this reactionary coup. We rely on many websites for our convictions: the sites of the Russian and Ukrainian communist parties, Russia-1 and Russia Today.’

‘There’s an idea in the west that there’s an alternative to the US-Brussels consensus,’ says Ilya Budraitskis, who coordinates the Russian socialist movement. ‘People have an intuitive need to replicate the familiar contours of the Cold War, where there’s two centres of power, each of which represents certain values.

‘The Soviet Union, and now Russia, is associated with social justice and national emancipation. We can choose which side in this global confrontation with which to associate ourselves. The mistake of many on the left is that, as they see it, Russia is far from the continuation of the Soviet Union.’

Short memories

For those who miss the USSR, the now disintegrated country is valued for its power and position in the world, as well as certain social welfare guarantees. Russia’s anti-fascist rhetoric and anti-American message have brought much in the way of support from some on the European left, who have chosen to support Moscow despite its violation of labour legislation, low wages and everyday xenophobia.

Buchenkov himself once declared that workers in authoritarian post-Soviet states now found themselves in semi-feudal relationships with employers. The political elite, he continued, had usurped state property while the opposition was weak. It could offer nothing but renewed religious conservatism or the fulfillment of neoliberal demands, concluded Buchenkov.

Indeed, as Budraitsksis sees it, ‘Contemporary Russia cannot present a single idea that could be mobilised elsewhere. It presents no alternative to the model of global capitalism emerging from Brussels or Washington. Yet either from inertia or a lack of memory, the politics of Moscow is seen precisely in this mold.’

Dmitry Buchenkov considers himself to be a leftist, but he comes from that minority of Russian left-wingers that view the Soviet experience and what came to replace it in a critical light. Unfortunately, the arrest of a left-wing activist in a country, which, according to tradition, is a staging ground for resisting American imperialism, is yet to garner a reaction.

A case in point is that of Aleksandr Kolchenko, the Crimean student and anarchist activist arrested last year for an arson attack on the office of a pro-Russian organisation. There was precious little solidarity from European countries, at least not in comparison to the murder of antifascist activists by neo-Nazis in the late 2000s.

Russia’s Anarchist Black Cross, an organisation set up to support political prisoners, notes that European activists are not only less interested in news of arrests, they’re giving less in terms of donations. Aleksandr, who is coordinating help for Buchenkov inside prison, also notes that attention from western NGOs is decreasing.

Instead, some on the European left are busy supporting the unrecognised republics in south-east Ukraine with music festivals, lectures and cinema clubs, comparing the conflict to the Spanish Civil War. Many more make clever remarks about Kyiv’s neoliberal path, while ignoring the fact that Moscow is travelling the same road.

‘You have to take everything that happens in life philosophically,’ writes Buchenkov from jail. ‘The people in prison are also people, our fellow countrymen, many people from former Soviet republics. It’s a slice of society, with all its problems and shortcomings.

‘I can only imagine why I’ve been arrested, but I believe that my imprisonment is connected to my political convictions. I didn’t exclude the possibility of persecution for my beliefs. I am outraged that I’m being persecuted for actions for which I am not responsible. I wasn’t even at Bolotnaya.’

Edited to add: In the UK the comrades from Italy mentioned by Okrest are matched by the (misnamed) group Solidarity with the Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU). That group is backed by Stop The War Coalition (STWC) leaders Andrew Murray and Lindsey German and the STWC website has promoted the group, as well as run numerous articles chiming with its politics. This has led to the extraordinary outcome of SARU backing smears against the National Union of Mineworkers for their solidarity work with Ukranian comrades. SARU are not marginal, they have almost 5,000 likes on Facebook.

See also:

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Ukraine: please kill 'Odessa massacre' meme FFS

'Euromaidan' activists helping rescue people from fire at Trade Union House in Odesa, May 2 2014. Pic

Like deliberately missing a open goal in a penalty shootout, Ukraine is still failing to nail the meme that Maidan activists deliberately massacred pro-Russians in Odessa.

This meme has gone around the world (thank you John effin Pilger), and has driven actual lefties to sign up for the zombies running the 'People's Republics' in Eastern Ukraine - including Brits!

The meme ain't true, of course the Kremlin megarubles propaganda is BS, but once agin we have a vibrant Ukrainian civil society yellin that something must be done. They're right. They must be supported.

This is an open sore for the Maidan, for the 'Revolution of Dignity', and it must be closed.

Reblogged with permission.


By Halya Coynash.

20 months after the deadly disturbances and fire in Odesa on May 2, 2014, Ukraine’s law enforcement bodies have not only failed to properly investigate the events and find those responsible, but are effectively stymieing the investigation. This has forced the 2 May Group, a civic initiative of journalists and various experts, to publicly express their lack of confidence in the Prosecutor General’s Office and Interior Ministry and speak of ‘clear signs of sabotage’.

There seems more than enough cause for such criticism. It is over two months since the International Advisory Panel’s Nov 4 report identified serious failings in the investigation and lack of any real progress. That report clearly stated that, given evidence suggesting police complicity, as well as omissions, and the failure of the emergency services to respond in time to the fire, the investigation needs to be carried out by a body independent of the Interior Ministry. The 2 May Group soon afterwards publicly called upon the authorities to pass the entire investigation over to the same Department for Special Investigations within the Prosecutor General’s Office that is finally, albeit slowly, making progress on investigating crimes committed against Euromaidan activists.

The criticism and such constructive recommendations have all been ignored. Instead the Interior Ministry team has been reduced to two investigators and there is no visible progress on any front.

There is, however, permanent activity on the information war front with Russia and pro-Russian organizations actively pushing a narrative about a ‘massacre’ with the Trade Union building claimed to have been set alight on purpose by ‘Ukrainian radicals’. These are lies that have been used actively to recruit young men to fight in Donbas, and are regularly touted around Europe via a suspiciously well-funded ‘victim’ and highly misleading exhibition.

The 2 May Group has worked tirelessly to refute the lies which are also debunked by the findings of the International Advisory Panel. This is simply ignored in the propaganda reports while the failings in the investigation are trumpeted and often claimed to be deliberate sabotage because of things that need to be hidden.

It is impossible not to share the 2 May Group’s frustration over the failed investigation. While criticism is mainly directed at the Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO] and Interior Ministry - the bodies purportedly investigating the events, the activists also criticize the Security Service or SBU. The latter has not initiated any criminal prosecutions on separatism charges for which there would be every justification. The 2 May Group writes that following Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the events in eastern Ukraine, some of the anti-Maidan groups, particularly Odesskaya Druzhyna and Narodnaya Druzhyna, “turned into an instrument for dividing Ukraine – so-called ‘federalization’”. It was members of Odesskaya Druzhyna who provoked the disturbances on that fatal day and there is plenty of evidence that this was a planned attack.

Whoever started the trouble, it turned into full-scale disturbances with weapons used by both anti-Maidan (or pro-federalism) and pro-Ukrainian unity supporters.

6 people were killed and a further 12 injured by gunshot wounds during the disturbances in the centre. 42 died as a result of the fire which broke out in the Trade Union building on Kulikovo Pole. The fire was caused by a Molotov cocktail, however these were being hurled by activists on both sides and specialists agree that there is no way of knowing whether the fatal incendiary device was thrown from outside the building, or from inside.

The Interior Ministry’s Central Investigative Department was put in charge of investigating the riots, establishing the causes of deaths earlier in the centre and in the Trade Union building. They were also responsible for identifying those directly responsible for deaths; establishing where the weapons had come from (and disappeared to); and establishing the motives of the organizers of the troubles.

This same police CID was entrusted with investigating suspected negligence by emergency services staff. Most, if not all the deaths in the Trade Union building would have been averted had the fire brigade not taken forty minutes to arrive, despite repeated calls. The Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO] was put in charge of investigating negligence by police officers.

Both PGO and the Interior Ministry promised a swift and open investigation, with Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also announcing that foreign specialists would be involved, and that cases would be passed to the court within 3 months.

Only one of the people currently facing charges – Serhiy Khodiyak, a Maidan activist - is accused of involvement in these deaths. He is not in custody and members of Euromaidan have consistently tried to obstruct court hearings into the charges against him.
Of the 21 pro-federalist activists held in detention for very long periods (with 5 still in SIZO or a remand centre], most are facing vague charges of involvement in riots which could just as well be laid against a huge number of other people that day.

There are very serious questions to be answered over why a crucial action plan codenamed Khvylya [Wave] was ready but not registered and therefore did not come into effect. Petro Lutsiuk, the head of the regional police at the time, was placed under house arrest on May 13, 2015, and charged with professional negligence for the failure to register the action plan. Initial optimism that this might indicate real, albeit belated, progress soon fizzled. Lutsiuk was released from house arrest, and although he is supposedly now at the stage of reading the material against him, members of the 2 May Group are sceptical about the case turning into a real prosecution.

There have been constant attempts to blame the events on Dmytro Fuchedzhy, then deputy head of the Odesa Regional Police, who fled shortly after the events and is now believed to in Transnistria. It is known that Fuchedzhy supported the pro-federalism camp on Kulikovo Pole and there is video footage showing Fuchedzhy leave the scene with a minor injury in an ambulance almost certainly containing anti-Maidan activist Vitaly Budko [‘Botsman’], a key murder suspect. It was Fuchedzhy who allowed the storming of the police station by pro-Russian activists on May 4 and he personally ordered the release of 63 anti-Maidan activists, most of him were able to escape prosecution. Despite all of this, Ukraine has still not bothered to have Fuchedzhy added to the international wanted list.

People being rescued from the fire
The investigation was hampered from the outset by the destruction of material evidence during the night after the disturbances when the communal services were deployed in cleaning the streets. The 2 May Group reports that there was no attempt to cordon off areas where crimes had been committed, nor to carry out a proper inspection of the terrain.

The Trade Union building in turn was only closed to public access a month after the fire. Incredibly, the official inspection of the building failed to notice evidence, including bullet marks, demonstrating that firearms had been used to shoot at pro-Ukrainian activists from within the building. This was only added to the file material after the 2 May Group’s expert pointed it out.


The 2 May Group calls the list of firearms removed absurdly short and notes that video footage shows that a much greater number of weapons were used. Some were taken from anti-Maidan activists and handed to the police, however there is no information as to what happened to them. The weapons used to kill Euromaidan activists Ihor Ivanov and Andriy Biryukov, and anti-Maidan activist Hennady Petrov have never been found. This is despite the fact that the bullet which killed Andriy Biryukov came from a weapon which is quite unusual in Ukraine and needs a special licence.

There has been no more than a formal response to the Group’s demand that the Odesa Regional Prosecutor investigate allegations that could implicate one of his employees in the concealment of the ‘Vulcan TK’ automatic rifle Budko is believed to have used to kill Ihor Ivanov (see: Prosecutor suspected of involvement in Odesa May 2 tragedy)

The 2 May Group is convinced that the investigation into the fire “is clearly being sabotaged at the highest level in the Interior Ministry”.
The Prosecutor General’s Office has narrowed the number of police officers accused of criminal inaction to just one person – Lutsiuk and is openly sabotaging the transfer of this case to an investigative body independent of the police and PGO.

Maidan supporters desperately trying to save opponents from the fire
The charges against Lutsiuk could also be laid against Volodymyr Bodelan, then head of the Odesa Emergency Services. Bodelan has admitted that he was personally responsible for delaying the fire brigade for 40 minutes. He finished his contract as planned, then stood for election to parliament. He disappeared for a few months after Lutsiuk was arrested, and liberally gave interviews to the Russian media full of misleading information and minimizing his role in the events. He recently returned, and obviously has his reasons for believing himself to be safe from prosecution.

An internal inquiry with the emergency services department found that nobody had been at fault, and the supposed criminal investigation is being carried out, as the international panel observed, by the Interior Ministry which cannot be considered an independent body.

There are no suspects, which the 2 May Group points out, allows the Interior Ministry to drag out the case indefinitely.

Failure to properly investigate events in which people lost their lives is a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. This, as well as the numerous other failings in the so-called investigation, make it extremely likely that the European Court of Human Rights will in future issue judgements against Ukraine.

Ukraine’s law enforcement bodies are thus sabotaging an investigation which is of critical importance for Odesa and for Ukraine as a whole, given the cynical propaganda lies circulated about the tragic events. It is not only the victims and their families who have been betrayed.

*Watch an interview with the May 2 Group on Ukraine Today.

* Pilger's Guardian article a week after the events included content directly lifted from debunked Russian propaganda - see the weaselly footnote added by the Guardian.

See also:

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A Children's Treasury of bat*hit Corbyn lines

Another day and another statement from Jeremy Corbyn which has to be explained, or 'Corbynsplained' as DPJ Hodges so neatly coined.

Today it was that a diplomatic channel should be opened with Islamic State and that they have "strong points". Thus hashtag #ISISstrongpoints trending all day today in the UK.

In the same interview with Andrew Marr Corbyn refused to say that the Falklands Islanders deserved the right to determine their future.

It so happened that I noticed that James Bloodworth had retweeted Harry Phibbs pointing to a exchange in the House of Commons:

(Bloodworth commented that this was "such a dishonest argument when he was against NATO *during* the Cold War.")

So, as you do, I went to have a read of said exchange (from, as John Rentoul pointed out, July 4 2013) and found it awash with gobsmacking statements from Corbyn.

I'm leaving out commenting much on the ones on NATO as I have covered that nonsense in earlier posts on Corbyn (see 'Corbyn and Ukraine: It's not pretty'). But there's him. complaining about NATO going outside the North Atlantic. In response to Labour MP Jon Spellar, he says about the anti-piracy operation off Somalia:
Of course piracy off the coast of Somalia is not a good thing. Instability in Somalia is very bad, but surely one solves that problem by political support for changes in Somalia—to some extent that is happening and considerable changes are taking place.
'Surely.' This is a prime example of the fake 'Man Of Peace', virtue signalling Corbyn.

Where to start. So the solution to the piracy is an elusive 'political solution'? What about the here and now Jeremy? (And doesn't that sound a lot like his proposals for Syria?)

He obviously is unaware that the NATO operation was started to protect World Food Programme shipments of relief. Or that the navies of Russia, China, India and 15 other non-NATO countries are involved.

No, the operation is about NATO "looking for something to do" - 'surely'.

Complaining that NATO is presenting itself as the "armed wing of the United Nations" - when? where? - he actually said:
It may be that the UN should have its own force.
Great idea! Why didn't anyone else think of that!?

Scrolling down comes this gem in his rant about Afghanistan:
Al-Qaeda was founded by US trainers.
This is an urban myth. It never happened. You can read the vast swathes of evidence confirming this as myth on Wikipedia, including this from CNN journalist Peter Berger (who interviewed Bin Laden):
The story about bin Laden and the CIA — that the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden — is simply a folk myth. There's no evidence of this. In fact, there are very few things that bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the U.S. government agree on. They all agree that they didn't have a relationship in the 1980s. And they wouldn't have needed to. Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently. The real story here is the CIA did not understand who Osama was until 1996, when they set up a unit to really start tracking him.
@Twidun also noted that "he conflates the mujahideen with the Taliban (formed in 1992)." Of course its a convenient myth for Corbyn to propagate. But not one he's likely to be challenged over unless a journalist does and I would very much doubt they ever will. (Talking to you, Andrew Marr, et al.)

Carrying on ranting against NATO I am at an utter loss as to what he is on about here (highlight mine):
A whole new scenario seems to be being built up, namely that China will somehow occupy the Arctic and invade us from the Arctic ocean, and therefore we must develop a new missile shield—as we already have aimed against Russia—to protect ourselves.
China? The Arctic?

I would normally think this was a slip of the tongue but then literally the next thing he says is:
The USA is moving more into the Asia-Pacific region.
Eh? 'More'? Like it wasn't before?

And who among us cannot see this proposal as a contribution to world peace:
We have a growing arms race between NATO and Russia, despite the apparently cosy chats between members of the Russian Communist party and delegates to the NATO Assembly. I absolutely welcome those and wish they could be videoed and portrayed to the whole world. The same applies to China.
That was part of a rant about arms, something he has an obsession with, and I would note from my coverage of his views on Russia and Ukraine that he thinks the evil NATO is about:
Advancing military technology and a military presence further and further eastwards in order to create this ghastly scenario of some kind of hi-tech war with Russia in the future.
The war in fascist-run (Corbyn said that too) Ukraine is all about NATO trying out 'hi-tech' weapons? This will be news to the Ukrainians complaining about supplies to them from the West of non-lethal weapons, unless Corbyn thinks night vision goggles constitute that 'hi-tech'.

This daft idea you will not be surprised to learn comes from Seumas 'Uncle Joe' Milne but it also appears on the websites of Ron Paul fanboys and the pro-Kremlin conspiracist website

Maybe the wingnut conspiracists are also writing about China invading the Arctic?

This was all from just one House of Commons session. There is lots more, of course, such as the Commons appearance where he goes on about how the world hates Britain cos Iraq when the truth is the opposite. Actual polling shows the UK is among the most respected countries in the World.

But these are facts and the Trump Corbyn fanboyz aren't big on those. Hence we are where we are.

Paging the News Quiz, Private Eye and satirists everywhere. The material writes itself, people.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Putin's Russia hounds 18yo to death

Vlad Kolesnikov

Clare Bigg makes clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that her communications with Vlad show why he killed himself. I would also add to Halya's comments that Clare notes that "rumors of his budding homosexuality did not help" in how he was mistreated.

Reblogged with permission.


By Halya Cornash

Radio Svoboda reports [English version] that 18-year-old Vlad Kolesnikov has killed himself 6 months after his defiant demonstration of opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea lost him his home, his place in technical college and led to a campaign of harassment against him. Vlad took an overdose of medication on December 25.

Vlad became known well beyond Russia in June for daring to wear a T-shirt with the Ukrainian flag and the words “Return Crimea” on it, as well as posting an anti-war banner at his technical institute in Podolsk. Vlad recalled the sheer hatred in the face of a school official after the latter saw his T-shirt, and he was first threatened by another student then attacked by a group of classmates. The police then got involved but were mostly interested in where he’d got the T-shirt.

It was after this attack that his grandfather with whom he was living learned of Vlad’s views and supposedly seditious behaviour. The former KGB officer and staunch supporter of the current regime effectively renounced his grandson altogether, using horrific abuse against him, called him an enemy and traitor, and ensuring that he was removed from the college, formally “at his own wish”. He was sent to his father in Zhygulyovsk (Samara oblast) and obviously had just as much difficulty finding a common language with relatives there.

Back in June, he told Radio Svoboda correspondent Dmitry Volchek that all democrats in Russia had been exiled for their views, and that he too felt that he was being sent into exile.

He had earlier also aroused the fury of local officialdom when called to the military recruitment commission to undergo a medical examination and get his conscription papers.

He told Volchek that he had played the Ukrainian national anthem on his cellphone, and said that he considered it shameful to fight in the Russian Army.

At an anti-war demo
The recruitment people decided to avoid further discomfort with the young man by thrusting him a form stating that he had a ‘personality disorder’.

It is hideously poignant now reading both the reports from June this year, and Vlad’s Facebook page. In June, he had received a lot of international support, and had a huge number of Facebook ‘friends’ and followers.

He probably also had nobody around him to provide him with any real support or from whom he didn’t feel totally alienated.

At one stage he was even prevented from writing on Facebook, but over recent months he had followed what was happening in Russia, reporting on the imprisonment of Ildar Dadin, the arrest of the Director of the Ukrainian Literature Library and a lot more.

One of the people who writes under Vlad’s last entry says: “There are no words, only a sense of shame for a country that kills its future”.

Светлая тебе память, Влад! It means so little, but you will be remembered, and much missed

Friday, 8 January 2016

A gay African 'anti-imperialism of fools'

As a Brit, perhaps excuse me these issues. They're not new.

The idea of an 'anti-imperialism of fools' is decades old (and behind an effin firewall on a magazine laughingly called 'Dissent').

Fortunately we have Nick effin Cohen via the hyper-capitalist Spectator *for free* to say:
In his Tyranny of Guilt, the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner emphasised the colonial mindset of ‘anti-imperialists’. The West may no longer dominate the world. (We are the first ‘imperialists’ without an empire.) But they can maintain that the West still matters because it is the root cause of the world’s ills. Psychologically, such narcissism is just about understandable as a compensation for decline. One day a cultural historian will notice that the explosion of chest-beating and garment-rending in the West coincided with the shift in economic power to east Asia. But as principled politics, the denial that there are reactionary movements and regimes in the world with motives of their own is a disgrace.
Thus may we view the fact of the New York Times blaming the US State Department for the persecution of gay men in Africa.

For the past few years the US has spoken up for LGBT rights, albeit selectively, worldwide and it has a small, funded support program. For most people this is progress and small beer, for others ... it is the 'Empire' doing its evil thing and promoting 'homocapitalism'.

The context from the Chomskyite left is of Glenn Greenwald telling Malians: 'I don't care what you f&cking think about an Islamist invasion, I know best.' (Which is what he actually did.)

IOW - and we already had a sense from their treatment of Muslim dissenters - it's tinged with racism, we Western lefties know best. 'Pro-gay'=pro-imperialist, in their minds. So of course the Times piece was gloatingly welcomed.

But the voices of actual gay Africans on US engagement with them wasn't heard (as it wasn't, shockingly, in the Times piece). Now they are speaking out.

Jay Michaelson writing in the Daily Beast:
Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian activist who founded the LGBT Christian organization Changing Nigeria in 2005, is one such person. “Obama raising the LGBT issue was marvelous,” Mac-Iyalla told The Daily Beast. “The African LGBT struggle could not have come this far without the support of the West.”

Mac-Iyalla also points out that the real turning point in terms of African perceptions of homosexuality as “Western” resulted not from U.S. foreign aid, but from the Anglican Communion’s evolution on the issue, beginning at the 1998 conference in Canterbury and culminating in the 2003 ordination of the first openly gay bishop, Bishop Gene Robinson.
Here's what the Times handed to African LGBT opponents and the Obama hate crowd:
Finally, the Times article radically overstated the amount of U.S. spending in the area, citing a figure of $700 million. That claim was duly repeated by anti-gay organizations like the Family Research Council (which, in a nice leftward turn, accused the U.S. of “cultural imperialism”) and websites like Breitbart.

But that figure includes the total amount spent on all “vulnerable populations” for public health purposes, not just LGBT people. According to Andrew Park, director of International Programs at the Williams Institute, which studies issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, the actual figure is closer to $7 million—two orders of magnitude off.
The $700m figure is BS. And that BS still isn't corrected on the piece.
In fact, the only thing the Times got right was its impersonation of African anti-gay activists, who routinely say that homosexuality is a Western invention, a Western sin, or a Western value. They are the ones who link the justified rage at 300 years of Western depredation of Africa with opposition to contemporary Western policies. In what is now a series of articles, the Times has endorsed this view.
Adrian Jjuuko, executive director of HRAPF
This article has stirred so much that a number of African gay activists have publicly come out against it (comment from
“I read the article … with a lot of disbelief,” says Adrian Jjuuko, veteran Ugandan activist and executive director of the Uganda’s LGBTI-friendly legal organization, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF). The article described “a very different reality from what I as an activist …  have experienced,” he says.

“The US support was always done in a respectful way and after consultations with activists on the ground,” Jjuuko writes in a letter to the editor of the New York Times.

In addition to Jjuuko, critics citing the Times article’s inaccuracies have included:
Why should anyone be unsurprised that Africans are upset at a Times piece which quotes Obama critics but not fans?

Those, of course, who value Western criticism above African opinion.

And, oh look, it just happens to exactly match that coming from the US far right. Funny, that.


See Also:

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Top posts of 2015

Inspired by my mate Bob From Brockley, here are my top posts from this year (or rather half year, as I only restarted blogging at the end of June).

Most of my writing or reblogging concerns Ukraine and Russia, such as my last reblog of Ukrainian leftie opinion on the, now banned, Ukrainian Communist Party, and only gets a few hundred views. This doesn't bother me as, for me, the point is to get stories from Russia and Ukraine more widely known, and I can see from retweets and other sources that those less well covered stories, such as about the left in those countries, do get an wider circulation via this blog. So is all good!

To answer a question I've been asked several times - why Ukraine? Well, I got inspired by the 'Revolution of Dignity', as it is now known, when it started in late 2013. Thanks to the internet it could be watched practically live. The participants I followed were not the 'fascists' that Russian war propaganda and its Western idiots have since tried to paint them as. Most of them were like the journalist Maxim Eristavi, who I covered last month: ordinary people horrified by the state's violent response to the protest of real grievances, in particular the theft of state resources on an almost unparalleled scale. Simply put, I found them inspirational and still do.
  1. Corbyn and Ukraine: it's not pretty
    By August it had become clear that the issue of a war in Europe was not on the agenda of the Labour Party leadership campaign. Since no one was doing it I thought I must step up and explain what the leading candidates views actually were. This hit a nerve. Abuse followed but still no one has actually responded to the points in the piece. And now Corbyn's views are much more widely understood. (Also, most of the information in it was rehashed by other, well known but shall be nameless, writers.)

  2. New Muslim LGBT heroes
    This was the first post from when I restarted blogging - and it went viral. It concerns the Turkish MPs who put their bodies on the line to protect Istanbul's Gay Pride march from attack by police, a story which wasn't getting any coverage. Also ran on PinkNews.

  3. Deselect Stop The War Coalition
    Prompted by the defence of Stop The War by the actual Labour Party earlier this month, this uses socialist arguments to say that they're beyond the pale and should be dropped by the left.
  4. The fascists in Russia's hybrid army
    Another 'untold story', that of the bonafide fascists in positions of power in Ukraine's eastern 'People's Republics'. Was reblogged by EuroMaidan Press and ... translated into German!

  5. Have Stop The War Coalition finally jumped the shark?
    The exclusion of Syrians by STWC - detailed. This post led to some uncomfortable questions directed at Diane Abbott on TV.

  6. Corbyn is wrong says Ukrainian human rights legend
    A reblog of Halya Coynash's assault on Corbyn's pretense of a 'human rights' stance, focused on Crimea. Got picked up by The Times.
  7. Brown's right, Corbyn will 'ally' with Putin
    Gordon Brown was widely criticised for saying this, but it's true, as I explain in this post illustrated with fluffy ducklings for a reason.

  8. The left's Russia naivete
    How and why Russia influences Western public opinion, based around a reblog of the American counter-intelligence expert John Schindler.

  9. Corbyn's election means Ukraine's stuffed
    Written just before he was elected, a pan of the conduct of the leadership campaign, especially by the media. With a prediction that turned out worse than predicted.

  10. Donbas can starve say 'rebel' leaders 
    How these 'anti-fascists' put ideology before the lives they control. More to come on this subject.

  11. World awaits Greenwald/STWCUk apology: 'We woz wrong', for example 
    Worst. Headline. Ever. Prompted by the ignored peace deal in Mali, a country all the usual suspects said should not be supported when they were invaded by Islamists. Even if the people there were pleading for support, cos 'West = always bad'.

  12. The night Stalin tried to destroy the Belarussian nation
    Reblog of Paul Goble's piece on the anniversary of this episode from history, a good example of how one retweet can lead to something reaching a new and much wider audience. 

  13. 40% young Russia: We’ll beat America in nuclear war
    This crosspost from Little Green Footballs, the US website where I also post, digs out the buried lede from a BBC Monitoring story by the great Stephen Ellis.

  14. Frankie Boyle and the Aborigines
    In which I take some casually offensive comments from Boyle's election show and run and run with it.

  15. Back brave LGBT comrades in Ukraine
    My argument that "LGBT must not be sacrificed in the name of solidarity with Ukraine or in the name of national solidarity." Includes demonstration report from Ukrainian LGBT group Insight. 
Thanks for permissions to reuse content this year from Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Ukraine Solidarity CampaignLeftEast, John Schindler, People and Nature (Gabriel Levy), Window On Eurasia and openDemocracy.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

On Ukraine's UKIP-like Communist Party

KPU behind a Russian far-right banner of Tsarist ‘heroes’ on an anti-Maidan protest in Odessa in 2014

Reblogged with permission from Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. Introduction by
Christopher Ford.


On 16th December 2015, the District Administrative Court of Kyiv agreed to the request of the Minister of Justice to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) from being able to officially operate or participate in elections. The move has been condemned by Amnesty International and the ‘Law on the Condemnation of the Communist and Nazi Regimes and Prohibition of Propaganda of their Symbols’, which preceded the judgement has itself been condemned by European constitutional law experts from the Council of Europe, who say that it does not meet European standards. The much respected Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has also questioned the actions against KPU.

Ukraine Solidarity Campaign asked a number of Ukrainian socialists and trade unionists their views on the ban.  As can be seen below there are strongly divided opinions as regards the judgement and its consequences.  One reason for this is not only the bitter legacy of Stalinism but the cynical role of the KPU in the corrupt politics of Ukraine dominated by rival oligarchs. 

The politics of KPU are largely unknown in the West and easily considered as similar to the Communist Party of Britain or France.  However the nearest equivalent would be if the CPB were allied to the Tories and had views similar to UKIP.  The KPU leader Petro Symonenko was notorious for living in a mansion in Kyiv on land worth $1.5 million, whilst multi-millionaire Oksana Kaletnik was a member of the KPU group in the Parliament. 

A good example of the KPU's conservative and chauvinist opinions is an article published in Party journal Kommunist comparing the Maidan rebellion to Black ghettos in the USA entitled  “white on the outside, black on the inside”:

Huge piles of garbage, all kinds of infections and diseases previously unknown to medicine, is a feature of life on these reservations. Their inhabitants do not work anywhere and only receive money because they wander aimlessly in the streets. They motivate their refusal to work by the fact that they are no longer slaves. Over there, in America, there are graffiti of Martin Luther King. Here at home, the portraits of Tymoshenko and Bandera. Here and there, they are dressed in what kindly souls have given them. Here, as on the other side of the ocean, this mess has the charming name of ‘democracy.’ But in this case we no longer have democracy. At least in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco the police sometimes make raids on such places and simply kill a few rabid Negroes. (…) Even the dark-skinned vendors in Kyiv second hand shops seem a bit more civilized than our ‘light-skinned brothers’ from the western regions of the country, who have gathered on the Maidan. ‘White’ on the outside, but ‘black’ on the inside.  (M. Kuzmienko, ‘Bielye’ snaruzhi, ‘chornye’ vnutri’, Kommunist, 17 January, 2014).

It is difficult to imagine such an article appearing in the Morning Star for example, though it would certainly help our movement understand the complexities of Ukraine if it did publish what the KPU have actually been saying and doing.  Nevertheless whilst standing up for democratic rights in Ukraine we have a duty to understand the complexities of politics in a country scarred by the bloody years of Stalinism.

The comrades below were all asked about the recent court judgement and what this means for democratic rights in Ukraine? Is it a danger for working class organisation? What is the nature of the politics of the KPU? What does this mean for Ukrainian left organisations?

Vitaliy Dudin is part of the Organising Committee of the new left party ‘Social Movement’; he is also a leading trade union lawyer.

I think it is a shame for Ukraine. Our state does not have any reason to ban any ideological party. They should protect society against extremists. KPU are not extremists’, but the armed nationalists are (Right Sector, Svoboda, c14).  Our state shows that it cannot guarantee the key democratic right – the protection of the minority.

We do not have any strong political left organisations’, that is why this precedent cannot be of any harm for them.  I don’t know any real trade union or left organisation which collaborated with KPU so I do not see any danger for anyone else.  But we should understand that this can provoke a new wave of conflict inside Ukraine.  The struggle around history it is a good background for neo-liberal reforms.

KPU line is no more radical then the Oppositional bloc. Plus they are homophobes like Svoboda [A far-right Party]. But even in this case they can be called an opposition.

The neo-liberal establishment has defeated all of its enemies – both real and virtual. Now we should show that it cannot save Ukraine from crisis.  We will continue to build a real revolutionary party despite any reactionary steps of the authorities.

I hope that KPU will continue to work in the conservative format of the ‘New State’ name  – that is the rebranding of the KPU which the Party used for the last local elections in Ukraine.   It seems very clear then that that their propaganda was rather conservative (homophobic) but not leftist.  It is not a reformist left party – it is closer to a mix of social populism and pro-Russian conservatism.

Artem Klymenko is a socialist activist in Poltava, part of the Marxist initiative ‘Flame’.

At first, the Communist Party was the left wing (brace) of the oligarchic pro-Russian Yanukovych regime. That is a bourgeois populist party that stands for the ideology of Stalinism, and “Soviet patriotism” (speculating on the return to the stability of the USSR, declaring that the socialist system existed then).

Symonenko's mansion (TV report)
Petro Symonenko [First Secretary of the Central Committee of the KPU] and his closest associates are corrupt bourgeois politicians. They opposed European integration, supported the alliance with Putin’s Russia, sharply condemned the Maidan events, calling them a putsch of the far right (nationalist uprising that was sponsored by the USA). KPU also expressed its support to President Nazarbayev, [of Kazakhstan] who ordered the shooting of the insurgent workers in Zhanaozen in 2011.  KPU are only called communists, which has caused a large part of Ukrainians to view the word communism with disgust.

In my opinion, among ordinary party members there were honest decent people, but most of them have lost any hope in the possibility of positive change in the political course of the Communist Party.

The ban of the party, I think, has not any significant (negative) consequences for us. It gives a real chance to rehabilitate the name Communists (Communist Party) for the Ukrainian working class (Ukrainian workers), though it will not be that easy.

De-communisation has many negative consequences, because it is a part of the anti-democratic policies. As for the ban of the Communist Party, it is not the worst thing.

Denis Gorbach, an anarchist from Kyiv, who previously helped co-found the Autonomous Workers’ Union.

First of all, it should be clear what sort of party KPU is – or was. Far from the idealised image it has among some Western Europeans, it is a conservative nationalist party which uses cultural fetishes (including Stalinist imagery and social conservatism) and economic populism as its tools in electoral politics.

Political capital obtained in this way was routinely transformed into very real material gains: KPU was able to sell their votes in the parliament, and under Yanukovych they even had some governmental posts which yielded enormous illegal income to their holders. For example, Igor Kaletnyk, son of a former regional governor and pro-governmental MP, was a member of KPU; in 2010-2012 he was the head of the Customs Office, later he became the first deputy speaker of the parliament.

Opponents of KPU often cite their Stalinist ideology, but in fact they cannot even be called Stalinists – unlike real committed Stalinist parties like the Greek KKE, the KPU was a regular bourgeois right populist party, a local analogue of UKIP or French Front National.  Not only was it a nationalist party allied with the Orthodox church and drawing heavily on a conservative agenda, but it has also supported the massacre of the striking Kazakh workers in Zhanaozen on 16 December 2011: the party newspaper published an article in which it condemned “the revolt of the well-fed” which had been undermining precious political stability in Kazakhstan.  In 2014, it also did not hesitate to support the changes to the Ukrainian Criminal Code which would criminalise the “inciting of social discord” – along with a number of other laws limiting the freedom of assembly and speech and introducing online censorship.

Genuine leftist organizations of Ukraine, despite all their differences on other subjects, have been always united in their attitude towards KPU, the very existence of which served to constantly discredit socialist ideas. Some of them actually hope that the ban of KPU will now clear the path for truly socialist political forces. But there is a lot to be done before these hopes will become realistic.

Today, anti-communist mood is prevalent in Ukrainian society, and the situation has been made far worse by the conflict with Russia. Too often “communist” is understood as “pro-Russian” – just as in Croatia after the war, to be socialist meant to be pro-Serb. Thus, there is no easy future for the Ukrainian left: they have to combat the nationalist stereotypes which KPU helped to create.

Volodymyr Sotnyk is a leading activist of the Free Trade Union of Railway Workers of Ukraine (VPZU) in Kyiv.

To my mind, the fact of banning KPU does not have a negative impact on democratic rights in Ukraine.  KPU is a fragment of the KPSS (Communist Party of Soviet Union).  KPSS controlled all aspects of life (information policy, manufacture, military activity, culture, agriculture etc.).  It’s totalitarian political system was aimed at enslaving people.  For the sake of keeping power, KPSS party leaders enforced mass repressions of ‘counter-revolutionaries’ among whom were intelligentsia, peasants and workers.  (The number of KPSS victims in the USSR reached twenty million people.

KPU was a populist left-wing party; it never really struggled for the rights of workers. Its electorate was predominantly descendants of KPSS party leaders, descendants of those who lived through good connections until 1990 and people with limited access to information who idolise Stalin, Lenin and want a return to the USSR.

KPU did nothing significant for the Ukrainian people.  In the Verkhovna Rada [Parliament] of Ukraine its members supported all anti-democratic and anti-European draft laws for stopping Ukraine’s development and the increasing of corruption.

I have nothing against left-wing parties, but KPU was just a populist party that propagandised Soviet Union ideals and has nothing in common with left-wing parties.

De-facto the working class has never been protected by KPU. Now the place for a real left party is vacant.

See also:

Monday, 14 December 2015

When Stop The War directs kids to war, and other true tales

Book by STWC leader Andrew Murray. Cover picture shows the burning trade union building in Odessa "where 40 people died after supporters of the Kiev putsch government, Right Sektor activists and Chernomorets football ultras attacked."

The past two weeks has seen a unprecedented amount of attention on the Stop The War Coalition (STWC), because of their association with the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Endless press stories and media appearances for a leadership under siege.

The STWC response to the spotlight has been to label every criticism a 'smear' or a 'lie', however it has also been to engage in some tragic PR tactics. When the focus has shifted onto what they publish on their website the STWC response has been to start cleansing the website - and firing the poor Web Editor.

At the instigation of 'Soupy' a blog has been set up to cover what STWC are trying to hide or may be about to try to hide.

The Real Stop The War launched at the weekend and here is the content on Ukraine which I contributed.

When Stop The War directs kids to war

The STWC website has a number of posts about Ukraine,. The most egregious by far are by John Pilger.

Pilger methodically repeats a series of Kremlin war propaganda* memes: That the 2014 Revolution of Dignity was a fascist coup (see the response to this pap by Ukrainian socialists and anarchists I link to in my post on Corbyn's Ukraine fantasies); That there were pogroms against Russian speakers - a line lifted from Putin himself and a vicious fantasy.

The idea of NATO 'expanding Eastwards' and 'threatening Russia' - central to Pilger but also STWC more widely- not only ignores the agency of Eastern Europeans but also indulges one of the central myths used by Russia's imperial rulers to maintain their rule.

It's his post on the so-called 'Odessa massacre' that is the most dangerous. The violent events of May 2, 2014 were immediately seized on by Russia to paint Ukraine as fascist, Russia even toured exhibitions around Europe. Citizen investigations have shown that what happened was nothing like Russia says (and Pilger loyally repeats).

Among the mountain of falsehoods, Pilger includes the supposed eyewitness testimony of a doctor. This lie was very quickly debunked as Kremlin disinformation. There's a weasel note on the post, copied from The Guardian, which fails to say that this information has been proven false.

The May 2 events have been widely used as propaganda and have led to a number of left-wingers (including Brits) traveling to Ukraine to 'fight the fascists'. In reality they have arrived in 'Republics' where actual fascists wield power, anti-Semiticism is endemic, homosexuality is illegal as are free trade unions and humanitarian agencies are banned because they might 'foment counter-revolution'.

Those thug 'Republics' are backed by STWC leaders Lindsey German and Andrew Murray. They, along with Pilger, back war on 'fascist' Ukraine and could care less for the fate of any mugs encouraged by their website to participate.

*See this fantastic Lithuanian documentary for more on Russia's war propaganda machine (in English).

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