UKRAINE AND EGALITARIANISM

 

by John Spritzler

April 28, 2022

[Please see "Ukraine: Links to Info re the War"]

 

Seldom do the have-nots achieve the clarity and organization and confidence in themselves that are required to wage a sustained fight explicitly against the oppressive haves and for egalitarian revolution, using whatever violence in self-defense against the oppressors that is required to win.

 

The Spanish Civil War/Revolution in 1936-9 was one such instance. [1] Earlier, in Ukraine actually, there was another such instance, during the early years of Bolshevik rule, when egalitarians (who called themselves anarchists) fought for genuine democracy and equality against the fake democracy and actual inequality imposed by the Bolsheviks. [2]

 

Today there is obvious enormous class inequality virtually everywhere on the planet, including Ukraine and Russia. The governments of Ukraine and of Russia (and of the US and virtually everywhere else) are governments of the haves who oppress the have-nots. The rulers of today's governments are anti-egalitarians who defend class inequality.

 

One way today's rulers stay in power, despite the fact that the vast majority of people hate the class inequality these rulers defend, is by engaging in wars against a bogeyman enemy and then telling "their" have-nots it is their patriotic duty to "rally 'round the flag" and follow the leadership/orders of "their" rulers. [3]

 

When people are unjustly labeled the "bogeyman enemy" (as for example the Palestinians are falsely accused by Israel's billionaire ruling class of being the enemy of ordinary Israeli Jews [4]) and are unjustly violently attacked, they often fight back not under the banner of fighting against class inequality for egalitarianism (which would be the most effective way to fight back [5]) but instead (unfortunately) under the banner provided by "their" anti-egalitarian rulers, a banner that obscures the class conflict and wrongly says it is otherwise--a race or ethnic or national conflict.

 

This is the situation that the mainly Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the eastern part of Ukraine called Donbass were in when in 2014 the U.S. orchestrated [6] a coup (the "Maidan Revolution") that installed (relying on violence by Nazi Ukrainians) a pro-U.S. government that began waging war against these Russian-speaking Ukrainians, demonizing them as the bogeyman enemy, including suppressing, by law, their use of their Russian first language, which is the first stage of ethnic cleansing  [8]. Please read more about this, especially in the section titled "IV. Nazis/US/Ukraine Violent Attack on Ethnic Russians," in my article, "UKRAINE: LINKS TO INFO RE THE WAR" at https://www.pdrboston.org/ukraine-links-to-info-re-the-war .

The Donbass Ukrainians fought back. They formed a militia. They declared their independence. And in 2022 Russia sent a military force into Ukraine with the formal and announced aim of supporting their struggle and to defeat those (largely Nazis in the Ukraine military) who were attacking these Donbass Ukrainians.

 

Here's the thing. Regardless of the hidden motives of Putin (an anti-egalitarian if ever there was one; in other words a bad guy who leads a government that oppresses working class Russians! [9]) the Russian general public is, like most people everywhere, pro-egalitarian; they hate class inequality and in particular they hate an obviously unjust violent attack on have-nots, especially have-nots who, like the people of Donbass, speak Russian and with whom many Russians have close family or friendship connections. This is why Russians support the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

 

"A prince must have the people on his side, otherwise he will not have support in adverse times." --Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, Chapter Nine

Whatever Putin's hidden (and likely anti-egalitarian) reasons are for invading Ukraine, the fact is that he can only maintain the support of the Russian general public for the invasion to the extent that he uses the Russian military for the formal announced purpose--to defend innocent people from violent oppression by defeating the Ukrainian military force that is attacking them--that the Russian general public supports.* If Putin deviates from this formal announced purpose then he will risk being overthrown, as was the Czar of Russia when in 1917 he insisted on keeping Russia fighting in WWI despite popular hatred for that war and the suffering it imposed on the have-not Russians.

 

So far as I can determine, the Russian military force is indeed being used to defend the have-nots of the Donbass region against the unjust military (largely Nazis such as the Azov battalion in the Ukraine armed forces) violence against them. So long as this is the case, I support the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.

 

Not all invasions are unjust. The Yankee invasion of the Confederacy was just; most of the soldiers in the Union army wanted to end slavery [read about this in this book] and the slaves welcomed the Union army as liberators. If I had been alive at the time, I would have supported the Union army and wished for its victory over the Confederate army regardless of the fact that Abraham "Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights” Lincoln was no egalitarian (quite the contrary: also read this!); he said in a 1858 speech, "I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality"; and he thought that black Americans should be sent back to Africa.

 

The invasion of Normandy, France by U.S. and U.K. military forces during World War II to overthrow the Vichy (pro-Nazi) French government was just and it was welcomed by most French people. (My criticism of the Allies--read it here--is that their leaders used "defeating the Nazis" as a pretext for attacking the working class and did not actually make defeating the Nazis their top priority in the war.)

 

Armies consist of have-nots in uniform, fighting with arms and other materiel and logistics made possible only by un-uniformed have-not civilians. The orders that armies are willing to obey, and the conditions under which the civilians will do the work that enables armies to carry out orders, all depend to a great extent on what have-nots think is right or wrong (which is why governments waging an unjust war have to lie that it is for some just cause, sometimes persuasively and sometimes not); leaders like Putin (or Lincoln in the past) are constrained by these facts.

 

To ignore the fact that the have-nots are a big part of the equation and to fail to support the armed have-nots when they are actually fighting against oppression, on the grounds that their leaders are not good guys, is a big mistake in my opinion.

Egalitarians should not make this big mistake! Egalitarians should also, of course, try to make the egalitarian aim of the have-nots explicit, and expose the anti-egalitarian aims of the rulers currently in power.

Nuclear Weapons?

As I have written earlier elsewhere, "An egalitarian foreign policy would never deliberately direct, or threaten to direct, violence against non-combatants. This means destroying our nuclear bombs unilaterally. It also means never invading other nations to direct violence against non-combatants as the U.S. did in Vietnam and Iraq." I condemn Putin's (and the U.S.'s) threats to use nuclear weapons, no matter what the circumstances; egalitarians everywhere should do likewise.

Are Nuclear Weapons the Only Way to Prevent Being Destroyed by US/NATO the Way Libya (Without Nuclear Weapons) Was, and the Way North Korea (With Nuclear Weapons) Is Not?

There are two things that can make the rulers of the US/NATO fear to attack a nation. The first thing is fear that the nation will counter-attack with nuclear weapons. The second thing (which is not currently a factor, but could be in the future as discussed below) is fear that a US/NATO attack on a nation will strengthen egalitarian revolution and thereby threaten to remove the US/NATO rulers from power.

The reason this second thing is not currently a factor is because Russia (obviously!) is not an egalitarian nation/society and, of course, it is not promoting egalitarian revolution in the rest of the world. But if Russia were an egalitarian society and if it were explicitly and clearly supporting the egalitarians (who are most people!) in the rest of the world--including inside the US/NATO nations--by supporting all of peoples' struggles to make their society more equal and democratic, then the general public in all of these nations would understand, despite the US/NATO propaganda, that an attack on Russia was an attack on them, on egalitarians everywhere in the world. The general public everywhere would be made angry--FURIOUS!--by any attack on Russia, and likely would increase its efforts to remove US/NATO rulers from power.

But because Russia is not such an egalitarian nation, it is quite easy for US/NATO to enlist the support of the general public in many nations for an attack on Russia. Russian Tsars and subsequently its extremely anti-democratic Marxist rulers attacked good people in other nations and thereby created popular support there for any US/NATO attack on Russia today. Elsewhere, the general public has no particular reason for seeing an attack on Russia as an attack on themselves, since they know that Russian rulers are essentially a plutocracy enriching themselves at the expense of the have-nots; why, they understandably might ask (especially if Russia's rulers are threatening to kill us with nuclear bombs!), should we have-nots anywhere have any sympathy for the Russian rulers when they are attacked by US/NATO?

The reason, therefore, why Russia's rulers today are so reliant on the immoral threat to use nuclear weapons is this: Russia is not an egalitarian society.

Egalitarians should not support Russia's threat to use nuclear weapons (even though Russia's current invasion into Ukraine is for a just cause of defending Russian-speaking people against Nazi oppression) because if nuclear weapons are used 90% or more of the world's population (almost all good and decent innocent people) will be killed! We should work to build the egalitarian revolutionary movement everywhere, and defend all just struggles but without using nuclear weapons. In doing this we have no guarantee of success; but in resorting to using nuclear weapons we guarantee the worst possible failure.

* The Russian invasion was also preceded by Russia's just demands that Ukraine never join NATO (i.e., that it never host missile launching sites right on Russia's border aimed at Russians) and that it recognize the independence of the two Donbass newly-declared independent states and that it accept that Crimea was now part of the Russian Federation, demands the justice of which I discuss in more detail here. Russia said at the start of the invasion that if Ukraine de-Nazified (i.e., removed from power the Nazi military forces that were attacking people in the Donbass) and acceded to the other demands then Russia would end the occupation.

 

------------------

 

1. https://www.pdrboston.org/egalitarianism-in-spain-1936-9

 

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nestor_Makhno and https://www.amazon.com/Revolution-1917-1921-Voline-ebook/dp/B093X8XJGB/ref=sr_1_2?crid=86NEJ2Q3824G&keywords=voline+the+unknown+revolution&qid=1651179842&s=books&sprefix=voline+the+unknown+revolution%2Cstripbooks%2C67&sr=1-2

 

3. https://www.pdrboston.org/oppressors-need-bogeyman-enemies

 

4. https://www.pdrboston.org/israel-s-government-attacks-jews-to

 

5. https://www.pdrboston.org/palestine-conflict-race-or-class-war

 

6. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26079957

 

8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8j0tJsKltg

The Ukraine Government Does the Bidding of Ukraine Nazis

The Ukraine government, reflecting the power of Nazis in it, passed a law suppressing the use of Russian by Ukrainians for whom Russian is their first language. Immediately after the 2014 coup, the new Ukrainian government passed a law that, despite the fact that most people in the Donbass region spoke Russian as their first language, for the first time required all schools and universities to teach in Ukrainian, with special exemptions for certain ethnic minority languages but with no exemption, however, for  RussianByelorussian and Yiddish. Read about this at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_policy_in_Ukraine

Read more about this suppression of the Russian language at https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210401-new-law-stokes-ukraine-language-tensions :

"Lawmakers in 2019 passed legislation to cement Ukrainian as the country's primary language, ordering middle schools that taught in Russian and other minority languages to make the switch and mandating Ukrainian versions of online stores.

An article of the laws that entered into force in January goes further, obliging shops, restaurants and the service industry to engage customers in Ukrainian unless clients specifically ask to switch.

"Anyone caught violating the new legislation twice within one year could be fined 200 euros ($235), almost half of the average salary in the country. No one has been penalised so far."

Note that one of the first steps in ethnic cleansing is to suppress the language of the group being ethnically cleansed.

9. Putin presides over obvious and blatant class inequality, made most evident by the fact of the existence of the billionaire "Russian oligarchs" who, at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union (with the help/blessing of American pro-free-market "advisors" to Yeltsin such as the oh-so-liberal Jeffrey Sachs, whose despicable role you can read about here and here) personally seized private ownership of the vast physical resources of the old Soviet Union. Putin has never even hinted that the wealth of Russia should be shared equally in an egalitarian manner by all Russians, and he accepts the vast class inequality (including of course vast wealth in the hands of the oligarchs) as a given fact of life.

The Russian government is a government of the rich haves against the have-nots. It is thus an oppressive government and there are no-doubt examples of its oppressiveness inside Russia to maintain class inequality by keeping the have-nots down and divided. Below I discuss how the government in Russia suppresses the efforts of Russian workers to win improvements in wages and working conditions and instead helps the capitalist owners stay rich at the expense of the workers.

Some people defend the Ukraine government's oppression of the Russian-speaking people of the Donbass region (of what the Ukraine government still says is part of Ukraine) by citing what they describe as Russian fascism inside of Russia. An article that does this is "Hunting fascism in Ukraine, you overlooked fascism in Russia." It makes the true, but irrelevant, point that people who don't display the Nazi swastika (the article refers to it as a 'sun symbol') can be just as fascist as people who do, and that there are such fascists inside Russia. My Facebook post, responding to a person who promoted this article, says this:

Banning the Russian language in Donbass schools where it was formerly used because it is the first language of most people there is immoral for a reason that has nothing to do with the “sun symbols” (swastikas) of some of those attacking the people of the Donbass when they tried to obtain some autonomy to protect against such Ukraine government oppression.

The Russian government is a government of the haves against the have-nots. But the Russian have-nots want to help the people of Donbass defend themselves against the Ukraine government, and so do I and so should you. Right now Russian soldiers are defending the people of the Donbass by helping them defeat the Ukraine military force that is attacking them to prevent them from having self-rule. When have-nots inside Russia fight the Russian government that is wrongly attacking them then I support those have-nots against the Russian government.

It is unprincipled to refuse to support Donbass have-nots when they are fighting in self-defense against unjust oppression by the Ukraine government, and to refuse to support the have-not soldiers from Russia who are helping these Donbass have-nots succeed, all with the lame excuse that the Russian government is a bad one. Yes, the Russian government is a bad one. So what?

Abraham Lincoln presided over a bad government too, one that was notoriously of the haves and against the have-nots. But the have-not soldiers in the Union Army were not fighting to keep the haves in power over the have-nots; they (not Lincoln! I'm talking about the rank-and-file have-not soldiers, whose opposition to slavery is discussed in detail in this book)  were fighting to help the slaves escape slavery, which in fact they did. If anybody back then had cited the very real oppressiveness of the Lincoln government as an excuse for not supporting the Union Army soldiers, that would have been unprincipled support for slavery.

Here are some facts about how the Russian government, at the top of which is Vladimir Putin, of course, sides with capitalist owners against their workers by making it difficult or even illegal for the workers to go on strike, and how strikes are often for basic things like getting paid any wages at all. Solidarity strikes (sometimes called sympathy strikes, carried out to support other workers) are illegal; this is an attack on working class solidarity the only purpose of which is to enforce class inequality. The following indented words are excerpted from a rather academic article, "Labor Under Putin: The State of the Russian Working Class"  December 2016 Paul T. Christensen, at 

https://newlaborforum.cuny.edu/2016/12/08/labor-under-putin-the-state-of-the-russian-working-class/ .

 

During the Soviet period, virtually all workers were members of a trade union, but the primary function of Soviet-era unions was not to defend workers’ interests.  Trade unions were an arm of the Party-State system, designed to help enact Communist Party policy at the workplace and distribute social services.[18]  All Soviet trade unions belonged to the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions (VTsSPS), which was a powerful bureaucratic apparatus, controlling “substantial property . . . as well as considerable financial resources.”[19]  Most Soviet workers were trade union members by default, not conviction, since union membership was automatic.

In response to this situation, in the late Soviet and early post-Soviet periods a series of new, independent trade unions emerged.  The most prominent of these was the Independent Union of Miners; others followed, including the Union of Locomotive Engineers, the Union of Longshoremen, the Airline Pilots Union, the Air-traffic Controllers Union, and the Union of Seamen.   These unions were made up of skilled workers who could not easily be replaced.  This gave the unions leverage in collective bargaining, but prevented them from easily expanding their membership.  Still, by the end of the Soviet period, Russia had two separate and competing trade-union structures.

In 1990 the VTsSPS was replaced by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), which was fundamentally the same organization with the same apparatus.  In order to get the FNPR leadership and bureaucracy to support him—and control labor unrest—Yeltsin gave the FNPR control of almost all of the resources of the old Soviet trade union system on the territory of the Russian Federation.  The FNPR has retained that control ever since, as the current regime finds the organization a convenient tool for managing labor issues.[20]  The independent unions retained their separate organizational structures, but in 1995 most of them came together to form the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR).[21]

The FNPR remains the umbrella organization of the “official” unions in Russia. 

...

Membership in the independent unions can be dangerous for workers: union organizers and members have been fired and physically assaulted on more than one occasion.  As a result, the independent unions do not publish definitive numbers.  The generally accepted range for membership in the independent unions collectively is between 2 and 2.5 million, although that does not include workers who are “unofficially” affiliated or sympathetic.

The trade-union movement is hampered even more by the Russian Labor Code that went into effect in 2002.  This law severely restricted the rights of trade unions:  They lost their right to block the firing of a worker by the initiative of management; they lost the right to call a strike (which now must be approved by the employees of an enterprise as a whole); the number of sectors where strikes are illegal was increased; and solidarity strikes were prohibited.[27]  An almost comic illustration of this is found in the annex of the 2015 Russian statistical yearbook, in which the entry for “number of organizations where strikes took place” drops from 11,162 in 1998 to 80 in 2002, and then drops to an average of four per year from 2008 to 2014.[28]  This number is only possible because the Russian state only counts “legal” strikes; according to sources collected by the Center for Social and Labor Rights, in recent years the number of labor protests is more than one per day.  The Code also makes it difficult for the independent unions to establish union locals in factories, particularly when one of the “official” unions is already present, since the FNPR unions actively work with management to prevent independent union organizing.[29]

...

In spite of a hostile political environment and restrictive labor legislation, labor protests in Russia are common and increasing in number and intensity.  According to the Center for Social and Labor Rights, the average number of labor protests per year from 2008 to 2014 was 241; in 2015 it was 409, and for the first eight months of 2016 it was 251.  Up to the middle of 2016, the “intensity” of protests also increased markedly from previous years.

...

Labor protests in Russia are almost all either wildcat actions or actions by independent unions. 

...

The most striking thing about labor protests in Russia today is the cause of most of these protests, whether stop-action or not.  Since 2011, the overwhelming reason that workers strike or protest is non-payment of wages.  

...

Objectionable decisions by owners and management is by far the second largest declared reason for labor protests, at 34 percent.  This category includes a number of different issues that vary from case to case, but they usually involve “changes in the social-labor sphere of the enterprise” that worsen the workers’ position, which might include everything from a reorganization of the enterprise to outsourcing of jobs to bankruptcy. Protests arise in most of these cases because “these actions are taken without the agreement of the workers, but are presented as a fait accompli” by the management.[38]  The fact that management acts in this way is not surprising, considering that the “politics of production” is constructed in such a way that the “social partnership” model is heavily skewed toward the interests of capital.  Olimpieva puts it succinctly:  “That is why, according to the expression of one trade union committee chairman, today it is not possible to speak about a social partnership in Russian enterprises, but about a ‘social coexistence if the employer wants it.’”[39]

Given all of this, it should come as no surprise that only nine percent of labor protests since 2010 have been carried out according to the stipulations of the Labor Code.  The rest have been technically illegal.  

...

Russia’s workers have used myriad strategies in an attempt to defend their interests, but as the evidence above suggests they face significant obstacles organizationally, legally, and politically.  For a large majority of Russia’s workers, trade unions have proven to be an ineffective mechanism for the advancement of their interests due to the “official unionism” of the FNPR and the massive roadblocks faced by independent unions and activists.  

...

It is unclear whether this recent wave of labor protests will continue, or whether some new forms of labor organization will emerge from it.  The Russian state is not generally sympathetic to social activism.  That said, it seems that for the time being the patience of Russia’s workers is wearing thin.

As this rather academic article makes clear, there is a basic conflict inside Russia between the working class on the one side and the capitalist owners and government on the other. I side with the working class, and consider those who side with or are part of the capitalist class/government to be on the morally wrong side, on the anti-egalitarian side. This is why I say that Putin is a bad man.

But Putin is a skilled politician who succeeds in making many Russian workers who are suppressed by his government nonetheless think that he is "on their side" (the way many Russian serfs famously thought the Tsar was on their side against the nobility who oppressed them and would come to their aid "if only the Tsar knew" how bad they were being oppressed.) This is shown in the above article as follows:

Given all of this, it should come as no surprise that only nine percent of labor protests since 2010 have been carried out according to the stipulations of the Labor Code.  The rest have been technically illegal.  At the same time, these protests have not been political in any direct way, except insofar as they reflect on the system’s inadequacies in terms of representing workers’ interests.  Indeed, it is not uncommon for the workers involved to appeal to the Russian state or to Vladimir Putin personally to intervene on their behalf.  For example, a group of workers in the Amur region wrote Putin a “letter” on the roofs of their dormitories with the phrases “Save the Workers” and “four months without pay.  We want to work.”[40]  In this case, the protest worked:  A spokesperson for the workers talked to Putin on one of his famous scripted call-in shows, and the workers were paid.[41]  This singular event has to be seen in the context in which, in spite of the publicity, an increasing percentage of Russia’s population view strikes as either ineffective or unacceptable.[42] 

Because Putin says that the Russian soldiers in Ukraine are there to support the Russian-speaking people in the Donbass in their fight in self-defense against the Ukraine government's violence and oppression, and to prevent NATO nuclear missiles from being installed in Ukraine on Russia's border, and because this is, as far as anybody can tell, the actual goal the soldiers are pursuing in Ukraine, Putin has very high public support.