Communism & Reaction, Fascism & War, Finance & Community in ‘Little Russia’
repost from Social Policy, Fall 2014 issue
One of the little pieces of art that my wife and I create has this inscription on it: “The Needle of Consciousness Will Penetrate Next to Nothing If Our Thirst for Knowledge Does Not Outweigh Our Fear of Honesty.” In particular, when we investigate the intertwining of geography, history, culture, and economics in some definite conflicted place, we must ask—and be willing to discover without fleeing—“At what point can we pinpoint the inception of patterns similar to those currently present?”
Do organizers pose such questions? I know that I have. Perhaps, often enough though, faith that people themselves know this background and the press of the present combine to make a shrug an easy enough answer.
The current moment’s crushing weight is irremediable. But, at least on this side of the Atlantic—and throughout that portion of Europe that the United States ‘freed’ through the Marshall Plan and other means—most folks are unaware of anything akin to nuanced Ukrainian reality. They see pictures of death raining from on high. They hear repeated imprecations that what Reagan hypocritically called ‘Evil Empire’ has again ascended to the political pinnacle. They have little other than horror or distorted nonsense to guide them, in other words.
The intention of these pages is to provide some context in this context, as it were. I tell my students, “Context is king.” And the only way to grasp such underpinnings is through examining the past.
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION
Commitment to historical grounding provides the foundation as we search out scraps of understanding about why things are unfolding among the monumental complexities of Ukraine as they are. For whether one relies on Consortium News’ excellence or on writers who cover this ‘beat’ for Global Research or other ‘progressive’ outlets, or instead gravitates toward the Times’ drivel or other ‘establishment’ non-sequiturs, the litany of reportage makes no sense of what’s taking place.
Certainly, the former group presents wisps of comprehensible explication: vaguely defined lure of empire; desperate drive for hydrocarbon stocks; desire to tame and dismember Russia; fierce determination to forestall the looming threat of BRICS, the Eurasian Union, and so forth. And obviously these are compelling components of a plausible explanation.
But they do not elicit a full-bodied account. If such rationale truly rule, if Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, or the union of China and Russia and all in between were really core issues here, then—unless they are complete idiots, buffoons of legendary stupidity—our present world’s rulers would not act so as to necessitate a stronger BRICS, a Eurasian Union powerful enough to destroy their empire.
So what is going on? This essay contends that analysts must wrestle with historical timelines to create a fabric out of today’s seemingly disconnected threads. From facts and reasoning that concern these issues, a hypothesis appears—four parts, stemming from just before1900 until World War Two’s evisceration and slaughter yielded a ‘Cold War.’
- First, Ukraine’s longstanding radicalism, even Bolshevism, peaked during this timespan; simultaneously, anti-communism emerged as the official ‘Western’ response to these socialist inclinations, a visceral hatred capable of fostering mass murder.
- Second, ‘international communism’ so terrified big-business that ‘free-market’ advocates embraced fascist means as a predominant way to shape policy, if not always openly to contextualize public relations.
- Third, Earth’s self-anointed rulers recognized that cycles of collapse and destruction fundamentally grounded political economy, with one depression, war, and bloodletting following another—implosions and attendant opportunistic explosions that also contributed to Nazism and its ‘fellow-travelers.’
- Fourth, financiers—cold-blooded and cool-headed impulsion to own, control, and dispose of everything in existence their primary drive—also came to the fore during these decades of working class uprising, fascist response, and militarization of underlying economic relations, all of which now serves as nexus for Armageddon on Europe’s fertile Southeast plains.
This four-piece dynamic explains how Ukraine came to be what it is today; it rests on historical reality. Ukrainians themselves—in Crimea, Donetsk, Odessa, especially, will nod in recognition at what shows up here. We need to acknowledge these nods.
This analysis in turn rests on evidence from the past ten thousand years, till the end of the eighteen hundreds, in which other important factors have also played a role. These other components persist, too, though we leave their discussion for another time and place.
As well, this contextualization interweaves with seven decades of a so-called ‘American Century.’ Zbigniew Brzezinsky ‘champions’ this “New-Rome” vision. His monograph, The Grand Chessboard, summarizes in very businesslike language imperial plutocrats’ perspectives.
“Russian recovery is essential … . But any recovery of its imperial potential would be inimical… . Moreover, this issue (could cause) differences between America and some European states, especially as the EU and NATO expand. Should Russia be considered a candidate for eventual membership …? And what then about Ukraine? The costs of the exclusion of Russia could be high — creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in the Russian mindset — but the results of dilution of either the EU or NATO could also be quite destabilizing.”
Today’s narrative focuses primarily on parts one and two of the analytical quatrain above. Foundations will appear for the third and the fourth components, but these will only qualify as the most basic abstracts. Social Policy readers may anticipate, should fortune favor such, a Part Two to the present initial installment.
As things stand, today’s plus-or-minus five thousand words barely initiate the empirical exploration of this fifty-year evolution of the present pass. The explication here does constitute a testable set of assertions, though, that starts to add things up so the final tally tallies, so to speak.
Honestly, our lives may well depend on such bottom-line comprehension.
To the soil and spirit of Eastern Ukraine and Southeast Russia, no better English-language introduction exists than Mikhail Sholokhov‘s And Quiet Flows the Don. Love, treachery, landlust, loyalty, social-conservatism, and revolution course through the novel in frank and graphic succession.
A key role in the story, though the character appears near the end, is a Chernigov-Province Ukrainian, a Communist machine gunner who successfully converts Grisha-the-Cossack to Communism, while they are in a hospital recovering from wounds that almost blinded them. Grisha, the tale’s spiritual center, regains his sight and for the first time in his life opens his eyes.
“Most terrible of all, Grigory began to think Garanzha was right, and that he was impotent to oppose him. He realized with horror that the intelligent and bitter Ukrainian was gradually but surely destroying all his former ideas about the tsar, the country, and his own military duty as a Cossack. Within a month of the Ukrainian’s arrival the whole system on which Grigor’s life had been based was a smoking ruin. It had already grown rotten, eaten up with the canker of the monstrous absurdity of the war, and it needed only a jolt. That jolt was given, and Grigory’s artless straightforward mind awoke.”
A primary character throughout the novel, moreover, Ilya Bunchuk, a Cossack from the Don region immediately adjacent to Ukraine, was another clever, forthright Marxist-Leninist. Machine-gun expertise, because such knowledge defended the revolution, was also his forte. His physical prowess, choice of arms, and dedicated revolutionary consciousness, in fact, closely paralleled those of an actual comrade from Odessa, who rose to become Minister of Defense and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee, General Rodion Malinovsky.
The war’s mayhem, for the Cossacks and Ukrainians, occurred largely on the terrain of ‘Little Russia.’ At one point, survivors of an engagement, having seen half their number literally cut to pieces by Austrian machine-gunners in Galicia, returned to find Golovachev, the Division Chief-of-Staff, showing off snapshots of the action that he had taken and developed. A lieutenant struck him in the face and then collapsed in sobs. “Then Cossacks ran up and tore Golovachev to pieces, made game of his corpse, and finally threw it into the mud of a roadside ditch. So ended this brilliantly inglorious offensive.”
But these communistic proclivities did not spring forth full-blown from the Russian Revolution or from Russia’s and Ukraine’s horrific experience of WWI. The radicalism that permeated Ukrainian culture also contributed to the area’s being a center of the 1905 uprising against the Czar, where the insurrection on the Battleship Potemkin took place in Sevastopol. As the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth in fact, what we now know as Ukraine—which was then ‘Little Russia’—was home to diverse radicals and militants.
One whom many Ukrainians consider a ‘national poet,’ Ivan Franko, embraced Marxism, socialism, and internationalism on occasion, while also feeling the populist pull toward nationalistic pride and rejection of Russian preeminence. In displaying the complexities of Ukraine, he demonstrated the fierce core of a ‘to-the-ramparts’ orientation. Many other commentators also note the late-nineteenth century prevalence of socialist, communist, and other anti-establishment movements and analyses among Ukrainians, with the common emergence of revolutionary leaders here such as Leon Trotsky.
But these fiery threads of contrariness go back further still in regional history. Partly, this relates to the role of Jewish culture in the region, on the one hand serving as exploitative agency for the czar’s tax-collections, on the other hand yielding the wage-earners and artists and thinkers who rejected their forebears’ legacy to become the region’s first proletarians and gadfly intellectuals.
Not that these veins of insurrection were the only elements of Ukrainian life, on the contrary, deeply reactionary forces, loyal to czar or Archduke or church, also existed. Many Jewish people feared and loathed their neighbors. Memories of discrimination and murder, of double-dealing and betrayal, were also part and parcel of the lives that unfolded here. Yet, central conduits of these bubbling cauldrons of contrariety were radical; citizens more often than not spit at the czar, studied Marx, plotted revolution.
Part of this red strain also results from the mines that are today part of the very locus of contemporary carnage in the area, and in the 1870’s gave birth to wildcat strikes and syndicalist actions that spread through all Ukraine. Nikita Khrushchev came into the world in East Ukraine, outside Donetsk; his father worked the mines, and young Nikita followed him at age sixteen as war engulfed the entire region.
The bloody mess of World War sparked the seething spirit of rebellion among workers and soldiers, Cossacks, Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, and the mélange of nationalities that inhabit these lands. Extensive, well-rooted stalks of revolt blossomed in showers of blood, from abbatoirs of human flesh.
Khrushchev joined the Red Army rather than continue mining coal, returning a seasoned Party activist who helped build socialism in Ukraine throughout the 1920’s. In addition, many of his associates and opponents also started out nearby. One of his longstanding comrades, as noted above, could have been the prototype for Sholokov’s character, Ilya, the machine gunner. The burly, earthy, much-beloved Malinovsky, from an Odessa-area peasant family, frequently paralleled Bunchuk‘s profile.
As the Bolsheviks wrested control of Russia from capital’s predominance and signed a peace treaty with Germany—fueling a sense of betrayal among the rulers of Europe that was volcanic in its intensity —Ukraine on its own also accepted German terms, but only after its political leaders pocketed plus-or-minus fifty million francs of bribes from France to desist parlaying with Berlin.
The agreement with Germany basically turned over Europe’s ‘grainbasket’ to the Triple-Alliance and threatened to boost the planned German offensive in Spring 1918. That Ukraine so blithely instituted this arrangement, from which attacks on Jewish residents increased and criminalization of dissent also flowed, showed in this instance the power of local nationalists and counterrevolutionaries.
As Germany’s defeat approached, however, in no small part because of Bolshevik organizing efforts, Ukrainians revolted and before the final defeat of ‘White-Army reactionaries,’ Kiev also entered the communist camp. The industrialized East, in particular, led the way in these developments, overturning the ‘patriots’ who had parlayed with German militarists.
Before the Armistice with Germany, meanwhile, England and the United States intervened in Russia to ‘free’ allies trapped among reds and to wreak havoc on the Bolsheviks. With increasing intensity during the Winter of 1918-19, all of the enemy combatants and allies of the just-finished capitalist slaughter turned savagely on the Soviets.
The White Armies persisted partially because of ‘Western’ support. Otherwise, the revolution would likely have triumphed by the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front. Meanwhile, Americans invaded Siberia; Austrians, British, and minor contingents from elsewhere led armed incursions into Mother Russia and the Caucasus; France joined Greece and Turkey in trying to consolidate Ukraine, which might permit recovery of some of the fifty million pilfered francs.
Such interventions elicited powerful outcries. These attacks targeted workers who wanted to find different ways to do business, after years of mass murder in the service of profit. In London, in Berlin, in New York, pamphleteers and demonstrators shouted out for wage-earners at home to stand in solidarity with revolutionaries abroad. Lenin, Trotsky and others made direct appeals to fellow toilers far afield.
Jacob Abrams, who near Kiev had played some significant part in 1905 unrest, fled to Brooklyn to escape Russian-Ukrainian secret police and encountered political authorities every bit as thoroughgoing as anything on Europe’s Eastern fringes. In New York, he joined anarchists, socialists, communists who remonstrated against assaults on the barely-born Soviet Union.
All these workers and writers and thinkers abhorred the war when it came. They even more stringently objected to the intervention against the Bolsheviks, in which the United States, as noted, had joined with Germany and Turkey, its recent enemies, as well as with its various allies.
To make their objections concrete, Abrams and his comrades printed flyers that called out Woodrow Wilson—“The President was afraid to announce to the American people the intervention in Russia. …too much of coward to …say, ‘We Capitalistic nations cannot afford to have a proletarian republic in Russia.’ …This is not new. The tyrants of the world fight each other till they see a common enemy—working class enlightenment—as soon as they see a common enemy they combine together to crush it”—and defended the rights of Russians to act as they saw fit. “Workers in the ammunition factories, you are producing bullets, bayonets, cannon to murder not only the Germans but also your dearest, best, who are in Russia and are fighting for freedom.”
Though “Great War” had finished, the U.S. still maintained plus-or-minus ten thousand soldiers in Siberia and Caucasian Russia. And the ‘Sedition Act’ was more intrusive and threatening than ever.
Thus, Jacob Abrams and his fellows faced the wrath of the U.S. Palmer-Raid police state; he and all of his cohorts confronted twenty or more years in prison, a sentence that represented a sick travesty of “free speech,” according to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ minority opinion. Eventually, Abrams and his co-defendants accepted deportation back to ‘Little Russia,’ from whence the peripatetic Ukrainian perambulated to Mexico to play chess with Leon Trotsky before the latter’s assassination. He and his comrades irritated the Soviets as they had the Americans, so that their complicated cases, which again intersected with Ukraine in various ways, have no easily identifiable ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’.
In a sense though, Ukraine spread a anarcho-social-democratic, revolutionary web that covered the planet, a phenomenon that occurred because such militancy indisputably permeated Ukrainian culture and society. That some rank-and-file hourly employees in the West felt similarly is equally verifiable. An additional palpable empirical reality was the United States’ outraged response to this, as if its imprimatur ought also to have spanned the globe.
The U.S. and its allies and enemies from the recent carnage evinced a fury and horror at Bolshevism that went much further than rhetoric and intervention, though, as the following section demonstrates. In the recent war, nationalist fervor had been adequate. “Over there!” complemented “Willy the Happy Hun,” and all but a handful of non-Bolshevik-infected socialists joined up and went to war as patriots, just as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler did in Italy and Austria.
But after the Soviet ‘cowardice’ in surrendering, H.G. Wells and George Kennan were just two of hundreds of annalists who documented the vituperation that greeted Boshevism among the upper classes, the landed and moneyed sets. At the level of Winston Churchill or Henry Ford, down through the coteries of capital to many a floor manager or shopkeeper, the portrayal of Commies as execrable scum was rife.
In sum, then, the multilayered, often contradictory radicalism of the Ukraine, together with the visceral hatred of these socialistic or anarchistic tendencies on the part of ruling interests further West, expresses a pattern. This dynamic persisted, as the next sections amply demonstrate, and it today underlies a continuing fury on the part of the privileged and powerful at Eastern Ukraine and Russia.
This connection with the present, in terms of analogous interventions, is obvious. Not by accident are the Ukrainian sectors now under attack realms where streets bear the names of Lenin and Stalin. Not by chance is this the part of Ukraine where those who are community leaders still imagine a social democratic society.
Moreover, the general historical connection between Ukraine and Russia is also indubitable. Communism and the Soviet way were every inch Ukrainian, ‘Little Russian’ attributes.
Just as many residents in 1900 rejected “Ukrainian nationalism,” so too now such ideation is far from overwhelmingly prevalent. Indeed, the 16th edition of Britannica had only this to say about Ukraine: “The name formerly given to a district of European Russia, now comprising the governments of Kharkov, Kiev, Podolia, and Podova. The portion East of the Dnieper became Russian in 1686, and the portion West of that in 1793.”
Kiev, Kharkov, Little Russia, and more merited many pages of narrative, however, noteworthy as dispositive circumstantial evidence of the interpenetration of ‘Great Russia’ and ‘Little Russia.’ The rubric of nationalism, in other words, was at least in part a construction of those who wanted soldiers to march and shoot as instructed.
As upcoming paragraphs reveal, Communists struggled both to accept and transcend the many ‘nationalisms’ that they inherited. And many people in these places understood, revered, fought for, and have remained committed internationalists, in a word ‘Reds’ such as those whom capitalist cronies throughout the world have detested from the very start.
When Winston Churchill spoke of wanting to “strangle the Bolshevik infant in its crib,” he was thus, at least by extension, referring to Ukraine. This resort to high-handed violence, mass murder as a social policy, might seem bizarre given the decimation that had for four years eviscerated the populations of Europe. But its anomalous nature does not undermine its actuality.
This detestation led to all manner of tactics against the young Soviet regime. Agents from the war period merely adjusted their caps slightly and continued spying and provoking and so forth. Economic warfare occasionally manifested in trade and such, but especially Germany desperately needed any relationships that was not immediately worth less as a result of reparations; this dependency on Bolshevik New Economic Policy commodities and currency fostered Soviet growth and survival.
Both this inherent need for connection and the infiltration of spies that it permitted affected Ukraine, at once beneficence and affliction. Soviet food supplies in any event depended on this fertile region of large and productive farms. And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, including the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, moved forward, which mortified and further infuriated the upper reaches of capital’s ruling classes no end.
So the intrepid murderers who placed themselves at the apex of ‘freedom-and-plutocracy’ needed some other way to eviscerate the Reds. Not by accident did the rise of various Nazi strains follow immediately on the victory of Bolshevism. All manner of ‘scholarly’ writing conflates communism and fascism in some shape, form, or fashion. For our purposes, this should suffice about such attempts: they are at best pathetic and wrong, all too often intellectually dishonest or worse, apologies for Nazism. But the fascist ‘triumph’ did indeed come to pass.
This fascist ascendancy flowed from many sources, for example that national patriotism had lost its ‘divide-and-conquer’ allure, after various mechanisms had annihilated tens of millions of workers ‘for God and country.’ Some new motivation, more potent, at once authoritative and authoritarian, was necessary.
This new embrace of madness and mayhem devolved into the rise of a new form of capitalism, which utilized the wheat stocks, or fasces, that pervaded Roman symbology and represented ‘strength in unity.’ Hence the world birthed fascism, which came to the fore as an explicit assault on the rise of working class movements that sought power over capital.
Churchill was just one of dozens of Western business and political leaders ‘charmed’ by Il Duce. FDR praised the “fine Italian gentleman.” The corporate press often and the business press almost unanimously promoted the Italian model. Churchill gave the clearest rationale for such attitudes, which seem—to put the matter mildly—bizarre in hindsight; “(Italy under Mussolini) has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.”
Mussolini’s initial foray into fascist State power served as something akin to an experiment. In the end, it did not meet the many-pronged necessities that big business was seeking: economic stagnation continued; the capacity actually to war against communism was missing; fascism in Italy remained insular rather than expansionist. Further North and East, however, a perfect storm was brewing.
Capital’s early fascination with Hitler did not begin and end with German manufacturers and merchants. Quite the contrary, from the early 1920’s, this artist and poet and believer in Germany’s volksreich attracted influential patrons from further afield than Central Europe.
The Rapallo Treaty between Germany and Russia, meanwhile, showed the risk of permitting even a ‘liberal’ German polity free rein in the aftermath of Versailles. Trade and even collaboration with communists rooted and grew.
This then is the context for the origins of Mein Kampf and the conflation of Jewishness and banking by social reactionaries. As opportunities dissipated, as jobs disappeared, as those who had lived gaily and sweetly found themselves hungry and fearful, the attraction of ‘strong policies’ that squashed unions, eliminated immigrants, emphasized warlike investment became irresistible for many. But this social setting for fascism did not pay the tab.
Who Financed Hitler is one of many sources that prove that the potent attraction that industrial and even finance capital felt for Adolf Hitler elicited his ascendancy. Again, this took place not only among German titans but throughout the haute bourgeoisie in the ‘free world’ as a whole.
A fascinating case study in this regard concerns Henry Ford’s admiration and support for the Austrian corporal and his National Socialist machine. Readers may find a thorough introduction to this tale here. Hitler kept a portrait of Ford behind his desk, the only such depiction in his office. Mein Kampf itself owed allegiance to Ford’s monograph on “international jewry,” which the industrialist had bequeathed to the Nazi leader without strings. Ford Motor Company laid the basis for the expansion of military production that, as Ford and Hitler both agreed, would have the primary purpose of annihilating the Soviet Union.
Under such circumstances, that a centenarian survivor of the French resistance might, in relation to the upsurge of fascism in the world, recently points an accusatory finger at the wealthy is unsurprising. That Indignez Vouz’s condemnation is not better known evidences both the propaganda or evasion that characterizes ‘established’ explication about these matters, and the confusion or ignorance that is almost universal concerning these issues.
“’When I try to understand what caused fascism, what caused the invasion by it and by Vichy, I tell myself that the wealthy, with their selfishness, have been terribly afraid of the Bolshevik revolution. They have been guided by their fears.’ In relation to Nazism, ‘the sense of history is the irresistible path of disaster to disaster.’”
While this decade-long fertilization of the fascist curse was occurring in the West, moreover, a parallel seeding of the ground took place on the fringes of Russia. Even inside the Soviet state, agents operated to lay the basis for upheaval in the present and collaboration with Nazis in the future.
The Georgian uprising and other cases of sallies against the Russians occurred throughout this period. The Polish State, weeks after its creation, with tens of thousands of its citizens languishing from Typhus and a million and a half of its children eating from the bread bowl of the American relief fund, decided to invade the Soviet Union and seize Moscow, though in the event, the Poles decided to seize Ukraine first.
George Kennan is just the most cogent, easily available chronicler to detail this sort of madness, which actually sounds strikingly like some of the developments of recent history. The Russians begged for negotiations. The Poles assaulted and won Kiev, where ragged pieces of a pro-Western administration remained.
The ‘victorious’ advances of anti-communist forces fell to pieces, however, and elicited the Red Army’s counterattack to the gates of Warsaw. Embedded French advisers, dispensing American money and British arms and ordnance, eventually drive the Bolsheviks back. Weary of carnage, all sides agree to a truce.
“So much for the Russian-Polish War. It was really only a delayed phase of the Russian intervention and civil war: delayed because the Poles did not want to be associated in any way with the White Russian opponents of the Bosheveki, and preferred to tackle the Soviet Communists themselves.”
The Arcos imbroglio is merely another instance of this sort of hostile relationship. The All-Russian-Cooperative Society was a British firm. However, just as the ‘free world’ spied on and agitated in and near the Soviet Union, so too did Russian agents seek access to useful intelligence and contacts in London or New York, in many cases with Ukrainian agents. And after all manner of dramatic testimony of illicit activity and unwelcome trading came to light, the English MI-5 authorized a general raid of and destruction of the outfit.
The events even extended to the U.S. “Jacob Moness was arrested in New York after information recovered by the Metropolitan Police in the ARCOS raid of 1927 implicated him in a worldwide Soviet espionage organization. The American authorities discovered a large number of documents at Moness’s New York apartment. These provided considerable proof of Soviet espionage networks in the US and revealed that the Russians’ principal interest in the US lay in their armed forces and defence industries.”
Thus, in a way that inextricably intersected with the products and personnel and prospects of Ukraine, a treacherous dynamic was in place between Europe and the U.S., on the one hand, and Soviet compatriots, on the other. This was transpiring, more to the overall point, in the context of absolute acceptance—and frequent monetary and constant political support—for Nazi initiatives and parties in German and Italy and throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
A contemporary socialist chronicle sums up some of this overall dynamic. “What was the real situation in the 1930s? The appeasement policy was not the result of some failure to stand up to the dictator Hitler, but involved a very definite set of calculations. British accommodation to the Nazi regime was based on the hope that Hitler would carry out the program outlined in his book Mein Kampf and launch a war against the Soviet Union, from which British imperialism would be able to benefit. Britain had pursued the overthrow of the Soviet regime from the day after the revolution of October 1917. There was no more passionate supporter of this goal than Churchill, who advocated military intervention by the imperialist powers to “strangle the Bolshevik infant in its cradle.”
The overall point of noting these attempts aggressively to assault and brutalize Russia is that Nazism as well existed to strike blows against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, including Ukraine, where Nikita Khrushchev was a rising leader in the Soviet leadership. These developments represented an explicit strategy, having nothing to do with any real hope for such ‘values’ as democracy. They did opportunistically enlist nationalist critics and opponents of Russia, but this is a different issue from the central choice to ally with fascism.
Of course, none of these points rebut the fact that Joseph Stalin was one of history’s monstrous criminals. His most strident accuser ended up being Nikita Khrushchev, because this ardent comrade and proponent of a people’s socialism was aware of the damage that ‘Uncle Joe’ had done to this cause.
More to the point of this narrative, Stalin’s viciousness resulted in the starvation of literally millions of Ukrainians when he forced the concentration of agricultural production in the region. This mass murder is of course inexcusable. Still, substantial numbers of Ukrainians support social democracy and recognize that this tremendous brutality occurred in a context of significant attacks on the Soviets and forced isolation of the Russians from trade and other sources of growth and exchange. Agents of the West, moreover, used the horror at what happened to build their intelligence arms and abilities in Ukraine, which in turn supported Hitler’s work when the time came for the Germans to invade.
In fact, the fascist gangs that presently plunder East Ukraine and sit in the halls of power in Kiev in many cases emanate directly from Stepan Bandera and his ilk. Such ‘liberal’ outposts as New York Review of Books have the temerity to play down Bandera’s fascism and label him a hero: nor is NYRB alone in such amelioration of Nazis.
The biographical facts are accessible in many places. Bandera came of age in the aftermath of the Soviet’s coming to power. He and his family, near the Polish border, were strongly nationalistic and accepted German help and funds. They participated in various actions during the Soviet years and orchestrated multiple slaughters of Poles and Jews and Communists until the Nazis themselves turned against Bandera and had him interned for the rest of the war. He died as a result of cyanide poisoning at the hand of the KGB in 1959.
The key facts here—those which more than any of the others ‘define’ this fellow—were the alliance with Nazis early on; the insistence on an ethnically ‘pure’ nation in an area with literally dozens of nationalities; the promulgation of mass murder. No matter what extenuating circumstances exist, one can no more ground a polity’s present on such a past, without fascism, than one can hail to Hitler as a hero and escape the Nazi brush.
Anyhow, as in the case of Bandera, more generally too, laying the groundwork for WWII, German interests in some cases merely networked with former or current English or French operations. Intelligence networks on the borders of and perhaps inside of the U.S.S.R. thus played a sinister role in preparing for what was one obvious ultimate purpose of Nazism, the utter evisceration of the Soviet Union and elimination of a Communist regime there.
The recruitment of local residents on the road to invading Russia was obviously a part of this process. Trade contacts, communication with public officials—such as police, administrative officials, public health functionaries, and more—and other means facilitated Western, and ultimately Nazi, access to knowledge of and power inside of Ukraine and other areas at the borders of Soviet control. These connections soon enough came into play.
The horrors of the war period in Ukraine stagger the imagination. The worst massacres, the most casual brutality, the most hideous violence and nonchalant bigotry took place in and around Ukraine. And for two years, Ukraine was a Nazi locus, till the Red Army—with tens of thousands of eager Ukrainian recruits—rooted them out.
One way of thinking about such things is to state that on June 29-30, 1941, German and Ukrainian operatives undertook the monumental task of slaughtering 33,000 Jews and Communists at Babi Yar, near Kiev. The hourly rate boggles the mind: a thousand corpses per hour; twenty thousand hasty burials per day; such statistics induce nausea.
The summary murder of as many as 50,000 more in Odessa a month later—this time with Romanian and local troops and police—imposes a similar psychic space. That both of these events—most people killed and the third-largest massacre of the entire Holocaust—occurred in Ukraine exemplifies both the complicated mayhem that the region is capable of manifesting and the presence in these places of agents with whom Nazis had for some time been in contact.
Another way to look at these developments is through the lens of literature. Here is Mikhail Sholokhov.
“His entire face was a cry; bloody tears were raining from his eyes that had been forced out of their sockets. …(O)ne leg, torn away at the thigh, was dragged along by a shred of skin and a strip of scorched trouser; the other leg was gone completely. He crawled slowly along on his hands, a thin, almost childish scream coming from his lips… . No one attempted to go to him.
‘Both legs gone!’
‘Look at the blood!’
’And he’s still conscious.’
Uryupin touched Grigory on the shoulder… . (and) drew Grigory along by the sleeve… . Under Zharkov’s belly the pink and blue intestines were steaming. The tangled mass lay on the sand, stirring and swelling. Beside it the dying man’s hand scrabbled at the ground.”
The point of any such capsulization, whether empirical or narrative, however, includes the following idea. These facts and atrocities resulted from consciously adopted directives. They were not accidents; nor miscalculations; nor mistakes.
The carnage’s aftermath, too, came down to a policy by the U.S. almost the obverse of its post-WWI invasion, taking the form of recruiting and finding homes around the world for thousands, or tens of thousands of German, Ukrainian, Romanian, and other fascist adherents. To an extent, such choices were religious, paralleling the Catholic Church’s well-documented embrace of Nazi forms and dreams. To an extent, these moves were tactical, ‘lesser-of-two-evil’ comradeship with the followers of Hitler and the promulgators of holocaust.
To wrap up this section, therefore, one might note that out of an initial revulsion for a locus of revolutionary critique grew a response that we now define as fascist, a deployment of tools-to-rule that persists to today and will keep on appearing tomorrow. A deeper penetration of the annals of this process will—without a single doubt—further prove that the United States explicitly and completely allied itself with fascism as the primary means of undercutting socialists, communists, and other anti-capitalists, both in Ukraine and more generally.
The connection with the present should be palpable. The social basis for fascist thinking is as simple to manifest as the massive uptick in downward mobility among the erstwhile ‘middle-classes,’ which is to say the shop-owners and insurance agencies and other small operators who collapse sooner or later as crisis follows crisis and the rich get richer. Unemployed and otherwise disaffected workers also join in. The ideological basis often comes down to an appeal to honor the nation, and, more particularly the state.
In the world of the here and now, and for the better part of a century, any fiercely nationalistic furor has skated along this route, a road to hell paved with good intentions perhaps. To insist on the nation, as a category superior to humanity, always now invites the Nazi wolf into the fold. These forces in Ukraine today not only have such obvious and discernible social and ideological roots, however, but they also both symbolically and actually have ties to the Banderas and Von Brauns and the predators whom the U.S. extricated following Germany’s collapse in 1945.
TSUNAMIS FROM CAPITALISM’S COLLAPSES
As noted at the outset, the brevity of the next two components of this argument result from exigencies of time and space. Much more remains to develop above. Even more so is that true below.
The ‘received wisdom’ in 1914 was that war was impossible. Integration would prohibit it. Except it did not do so. Among the topics and evidence important to consider here are the following.
- Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes’ prescient warning about particularly Britain’s and France’s attempts to extract reparations from Germany.
- The Kellogg Briand Pact, which ‘outlawed’ war in the late 1920’s and ‘30’s.
- The Merchants of Death ideation, both as an independent scholarly explication and as the result of the Senator Gerald Nye extensive committee hearings about the banking boons that resulted from financing Europe’s war.
- The Manhattan Project, as a prototypical embodiment of conjoining State and War and production.
- The Marshall Plan, which both unleashed the productive capacity that had burgeoned from the corpses that war created and acted to forestall Soviet involvement with Western Europe’s imperial states.
- The governmental reorganization —DOD, CIA, NSA, AEC, & more all began between 1945 and 1950—that put into ongoing practice what the Manhattan Engineering District had foretold.
This short overview, then, establishes a three-part intersection that prevailed throughout this time and space: economic crisis, technological and organizational development, and the political commitment to warfare-Keynsianism. A continuation of these forces still marks the here and now.
The connection with the present day is therefore as simple to show as the ouster of Victor Yanukovich after he refused an IMF ‘loan’ and instead accepted a Russian plan. No sooner had Petro Poroschenko taken charge than he set in motion the political networking and quid pro quos to accede to the Western loan that Yanukovich had rejected.
Such apparently rational and natural choices as Yanukovich’s flow from the way that repeated prosperous bubblings collapse into destitution. Nevertheless, under the present relations of power and property, any similar decision is fundamentally impermissible. It violates the basic nature of the standard operation procedures, agendas, and needs of the powers-that-be. Soon enough, planes explode in midair and threats of utter annihilation replace the saber rattling of yore. And the past becomes a foggy plain, full of the stench of rotted corpses and the fear of instant death, that no one wants to venture to view.
The financiers who sit at society’s peak—at least on occasion—make sure that inhibitions against any deeper examination are powerfully present—in the news, in the halls of government, in the political and financial contextualization of such matters. After all, these bankers and traders and arbitrage experts hold levers of power that permit such obfuscation and deflection to proceed apace.
THE CIA-BANKING NEXUS AND ITS TARGETING CRIMEA
A grand compromise drove this supremacy of banking and finance. This entente allowed unions and other working-class empowerment. Social security became the norm. Its shadow, however was a ‘national socialism’ with which it must eventually clash, even as the hope among both some financiers and many industrialists was that unleashing Germany against Stalin’s Russia would eliminate the threat of organized communism while at the same time making fascism weak enough or tractable enough to manage.
The connection with the present day contains readily identifiable elements. The non-governmental organizations that sowed the fields that we are now readying to reap in Ukraine emanated from the likes of Pierre Omidyar and George Soros on ‘the left’ and from more obviously reactionary sorts as the Hoover Foundation and the Council for Foreign Relations on ‘the right ,’ not to mention various opportunistic outsiders, from Ukrainian-Israeli billionaires to the legal-eagle sons of Vice Presidents.
‘Left’ and ‘right’ are directions to turn. They do not represent any necessary polarity of opposition. Not so communist and capitalist, which, particularly as the moneybags’ stranglehold on policy becomes unstoppable, manifest a Manichean necessity of conflict to the bitter end.
A CONCLUDING INVITATION TO CONTINUING CONVERSATION
Another piece of art that my wife and I produced has this to say. “The Complex Convolutions of Contemporary Social Crises Mandate Inclusive, Forthright, & Complete Conversations, Freewheeling Debates That Foster Popular Empowerment & Enlightenment, Which in Turn Yield Potent Democratic Action; Unfortunately for Human Prospects, All Inclusive Discursive Movements Elicit Often Fierce & Official Resistance: Hypocritical ‘Gatekeepers,’ Polite Hosts, & Timid Citizens Mainly Either Proscribe or Avoid Any Discussion That Threatens to Touch on Sensitive Issues Critical to Human Survival—Humanity’s Epitaph Might Soon Enough Read, ‘They Could Have Solved Their Problems, But Didn’t Care to Talk About Them.’”
This essay invites ongoing conversation. Unlike Goldilocks, it does not pretend to have everything ‘just right.’
It develops a set of arguments that flow from intuition and observation and match aspects of evidence and knowledge about a place and time, some of which just showed up on my radar screen and some of which I’ve dug out with the help of my wife and other colleagues. This place and time, Ukraine more or less immediately prior to the present pass, must interest us, at least if our common thriving, even survival, has any appeal at all.
- Art – personal collection
- Map – http://ukrmap.su/en-uh10/1066.html
- “Begin Brzezinski Camp David Chess” by Original uploader was Perceval at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:IngerAlHaosului using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Begin_Brzezinski_Camp_David_Chess.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Begin_Brzezinski_Camp_David_Chess.jpg
- “Stanley Wood CossackCourage” by Stanley L. Wood (1866 – 1928)  – http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War/Stanley_Wood/Stanley_Wood_08.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stanley_Wood_CossackCourage.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Stanley_Wood_CossackCourage.jpg
- “Don Cossacks monument Luhansk” by Riwnodennyk – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Don_Cossacks_monument_Luhansk.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Don_Cossacks_monument_Luhansk.JPG
- “Shestviye u Narvskikh vorot” by Неизвестен – Первая русская революция 1905 года. М., 1925 г.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shestviye_u_Narvskikh_vorot.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Shestviye_u_Narvskikh_vorot.jpg
- Kruschev – “1916. Khrushhev-s-zhenojj-efrosinejj” by Unknown – http://foto-history.livejournal.com/1686834.htmlhttp://www.moskva-put.net/attraction/kremlin/generalnye-sekretari-ck-kpss-v/nikita-sergeevich-hruschev/. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1916._Khrushhev-s-zhenojj-efrosinejj.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1916._Khrushhev-s-zhenojj-efrosinejj.jpg
- “The hand that will rule the world” by Ralph Chaplin – Industrial Workers of the World journal “Solidarity” (June 30, 1917 issue). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_hand_that_will_rule_the_world.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_hand_that_will_rule_the_world.jpg
- “In for a trimming” unknown; public domain – http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/rise_of_american_fascism.htm
- He Would Turn the Clock Back 1,000 Years: (1919) public domain http://rationalrevolution.net/images/bolciv.png
- Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, June 1940 (NARA) Public Domain: via com
- “Ford assembly line – 1913” by Unknown – http://www.gpschools.org/ci/depts/eng/k5/third/fordpic.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ford_assembly_line_-_1913.jpg
- “Stamp of Ukraine Stepan Bandera 100 years” by The stamp was designed by Vasil Vasilenko . It most likely uses this photo. – own scan by Vizu. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stamp_of_Ukraine_Stepan_Bandera_100_years.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Stamp_of_Ukraine_Stepan_Bandera_100_years.jpg
- Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-646-5188-17, Flugzeuge Junkers Ju 87″ by Opitz – This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-646-5188-17,_Flugzeuge_Junkers_Ju_87.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-646-5188-17,_Flugzeuge_Junkers_Ju_87.jpg
- “Marshall Plan poster” by E. Spreckmeester, published Economic Cooperation Administration – Source. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marshall_Plan_poster.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Marshall_Plan_poster.JPG
- Money, from org
- Art, personal collection