Re: Counterpunch: Slavoj Zizek Does His Christopher Hitchens Impression


Marv Gandall
 

I’ve refrained from further comment on the Ukraine debate because it both sides are clearly talking past each other, but I can't let go unanswered Bradley Mayer’s sectarian attack on those opposing his unconditional support of the Ukrainian national movement as having "crossed a political Rubicon, a red line of treason to leftism, socialism, anti-imperialism, the proletariat, Marxism, and social revolution, period, tout court.” 
 
Since I assume Bradley is an admirer of Trotsky, as many on this list are, he and others might be surprised to learn that their political mentor was a lifelong sharp critic of the bourgeois-led Ukrainian movement for national independence, which then as now was predominantly concentrated in the west of the country outside the industrialized Donbas. 
 
When Trotsky proclaimed his support for Ukrainian self-determination, it was was conditional on that struggle being led by the socialist proletariat. This was consistent with the Bolshevik view that the bourgeoisie had exhausted its historic mission as an agent for change both in relation to its own absolutist monarchies and to the struggle for national independence from foreign imperialist powers. This understanding was encapsulated in his call a "united, free and independent workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Ukraine” (emphasis mine).

Trotsky took up the question in 1939 because he considered the centralizing policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy were leading the Ukrainian masses to dependence rather than independence from imperialism. A few quotes will illustrate:

"The worker and peasant masses in the Western Ukraine, in Bukovina, in the Carpatho-Ukraine are in a state of confusion: Where to turn? What to demand? This situation naturally shifts the leadership to the most reactionary Ukrainian cliques who express their “nationalism” by seeking to sell the Ukrainian people to one imperialism or another in return for a promise of fictitious independence."

"Only hopeless pacifist blockheads are capable of thinking that the emancipation and unification of the Ukraine can be achieved by peaceful diplomatic means, by referendums, by decisions of the League of Nations, etc. In no way superior to them of course are those “nationalists” who propose to solve the Ukrainian question by entering the service of one imperialism against another."

"Insofar as the issue depends upon the military strength of the imperialist states, the victory of one grouping or another can signify only a new dismemberment and a still more brutal subjugation of the Ukrainian people, The program of independence for the Ukraine in the epoch of imperialism is directly and indissolubly bound up with the program of the proletarian revolution. It would be criminal to entertain any illusions on this score.” 

"The Ukraine is especially rich and experienced in false paths of struggle for national emancipation. Here everything has been tried: the petty-bourgeois Rada, and Skoropadski, and Petlura, and “alliance” with the Hohenzollerns and combinations with the Entente. After all these experiments, only political cadavers can continue to place hope in one of the fractions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie as the leader of the national struggle for emancipation.”

"At the beginning of the last imperialist war the Ukrainians, Melenevski (“Basok”) and Skoropis-Yeltukhovski, attempted to place the Ukrainian liberation movement under the wing of the Hohenzollern general, Ludendorff. They covered themselves in so doing with left phrases.”

"There is not the slightest basis for hoping that the comparatively impoverished and backward Ukraine will be able to establish and maintain a regime of democracy. Indeed the very independence of the Ukraine would not be long-lived in an imperialist environment.”

"A powerful and purely Ukrainian proletariat has been created there by the development of industry. It is they who are destined to be the leaders of the Ukrainian people in all their future struggles.”

"The slogan of a democratic Ukraine is historically belated. The only thing it is good for is perhaps to console bourgeois intellectuals. It will not unite the masses. And without the masses, the emancipation and unification of the Ukraine is impossible.”

Trotsky was writing when Ukraine was still part of the USSR and the concept an independent, socialist Ukraine was not the pipedream it appears to be today, That said, I very much doubt Trotsky, were he alive today, would have retreated from that dream to align himself with those "seeking to sell the Ukrainian people to one imperialism or another in return for a promise of fictitious independence”, with those who “continue to place hope in one of the fractions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie as the leader of the national struggle for emancipation.”

https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/04/ukraine.html and https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/07/ukraine.htm

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