Letter: Comments to Parkinson's Reply

Date: 2022-06-19T22:20:34+00:00

Location: cosmonautmag.com

Parkinson has written a reply to me – I agree with a considerable portion of the political positions that Parkinson presents and he is convincing in that regard.

Nonetheless, I think far more useful would be highlighting the growing role of desertions on both the side of the LDNR and Ukrainian armed forces, as both have been relying increasingly on ill-equipped mobilized troops to fight its war. This proves a way of overcoming this war properly. Furthermore, it should also be highlighted how this war is being used to strengthen the Western ideological regime, creating another “Fortress Europa.” As Von der Layen said: “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us the European dream.” To this end, opposing the rising ideological militarism which is tied to these arm shipments would be a useful connection – as they are being used to increase the military spending at home too. And the left has correctly come to centre this connection where I live, even if unfortunately this is still on the level of pacifism, i.e. that the wealth is being misspent and not on “useful” things. Still, a positive thing despite the issues at hand. 

However, there are disagreements nonetheless – for one, while the war is currently located within Donbass, the Russian military official Rustan Minnekaev has made clear it does not plan to stop there: he has stated that after Donbass the entire coastline of Ukraine will be next and it’s clear Russia seeks to also annex the Kharkiv Oblast. The goal is to fulfil Novorossiya. So, it is simply not true that this is a war about Donbass and Crimea – if the “war party” is able to continue its dominance of Russian strategy, then the war will not stop at Donbass. The goal is the degradation of the Ukrainian state’s capabilities by carving out half of its territory and taking control of a significant portion of its exports; a strategy one finds commonality with US imperialism in Iraq.

There is a history of separatism in Donbass (and Crimea). This is undeniable and the oppressions Russians in Donbass have faced is significant. However, it should be clear this war is not simply about Donbass: Russia is seeking to annex Kherson as well. There is no history of such separatism in Kherson or any other region of Ukraine. These are clear annexations, and not an issue of both sides having legitimate claim to such things (not that there is a majority in support for unification in Donbass either, past or present). 

Lastly, simply reducing this to provocation against Russia, seemingly seeking to make Russia engage in a war which is disadvantageous is more than questionable – the Russian state’s leadership is not made up of idiots, and the assumptions required to come to that conclusion are questionable. It is also, fundamentally, at odds with the history of great power conflicts. They are usually initiated when states fear that, without them, decline is inevitable, as E.H. Carr said that imperial powers fight so that “they might not find themselves in a more unfavourable position in some future war.” This is clearly the case with the current conflict, which is driven by fears of the consequences of NATO training for the Ukrainian army (it has already shown to be effective enough that Russia’s attempt at conquering all of Ukraine has failed), as well as by the prevention of coercive pressure being effective on Ukraine after the repression of OPPZh. 

This is not a simple case of ignored “security concerns” – as if these are ever legitimate, as presented here. Imperial spheres of influence never are; which is what these security concerns ultimately are, conflicts of influence between an imperialist power and a degrading imperialist power seeking to respond to encroachment. And, well, saying the level of politics should be about demanding peace conferences between Russia and Ukraine – this is asking for reconciliation between US and Russian imperialism. Or, if one thinks Russia is not imperialist, between US imperialism and Russia’s attempt at creating such an imperial sphere. As I noted in my article, such are pointless hopes – unless one argues that Russian imperialist demands should take priority over US imperialist ones. Which is a rather pointless orientation of politics. As, so it is clear, there is no “superior” middle path laying forward now. The attempt at a “Minsk 3” as some propose will never arrive. 

Also, to clarify on the role of refugees: one of the most decisive ways of linking the plights of Ukrainians to the general struggle of refugees would be mobilizing for the general declaration of safe harbours, the creation of proper housing and social systems for refugees as even Ukrainians are increasingly becoming homeless too, as well as generally showing the way the West treats Ukrainians differently from other refugees. This is something already being done by refugee aid organizations, but I think this should be the utmost focus as this is something locally realizable and would greatly improve the conditions of the proletariat. 

Lastly, Parkinson states that “if anti-imperialism becomes a mass social phenomenon in the imperialist countries it will succeed by mobilizing people on the basis of their material interests against imperialism.” I do not think such a thing is likely; there is the Iraq War-like ‘anti-imperialism,’ i.e. seeing it was a wasteful form of spending which looted social wealth. But so far, there’s been no indication as to what these material interests are which would be able to sustain a long-term anti-imperialist politics in the core. So far, it’s been 50 years without such a mass movement arising which was able to sustain itself – the closest example, the support for the struggle of Vietnam against US-imperialism, was always one directly related to drafts. Positive, ultimately, but the material interests were ones which made it unable to sustain itself after drafting ended. 

Nonetheless, one can still organize successfully and achieve considerable things; the Liberation Support Movement was able to raise considerable sums for African national liberation movements despite having a limited membership. That currently there is no material interest in anti-imperialism in the core does not mean human liberation is impossible; only a minority of the world lives in the imperial core. The vast majority does not. And nothing is forever. That things are currently bad for communist organizing is not an argument that the reasons for why do not exist; so far, pretending they do not exist does not seem to have produced any particularly successful praxis.

Best wishes,

S. Hilgers.

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