Ukraine: The Truth April 14, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Imperialism, Russia, Ukraine, War.
Tags: Ban Ki-moon, gary leupp, maidan, NATO, putin, roger hollander, russia, russia naval bases, U.S. imperialism, u.s. naval bases, ukraine, ukraine coup, ukraine neo-fascists, victoria nuland, Yanukovich, Yatsenyuk
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Roger’s note: I apologize for continuing to post on the Ukraine situation, but probably nothing demonstrates as well the almost surrealistic unreality of what the United States government and the corporate media are promoting as opposed to what is the actual on the ground reality. In fact, the Neocons, the Pentagon and the National Security establishment could very well lead the world into a nuclear conflagration over the fictional Russian aggression. One does not need to be a Rusophile or a friend of Putin to see who is aggressing whom.
Reuters headline, April 9: “Ukraine sets sights on joining NATO.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headline, April 9: “Far-Right Leader Names Ukrainian Military Adviser.”
Moscow’s official line on Ukraine—and it should not be dismissed just because that’s what it is—is that the U.S. has spent about $ 5 billion backing “regime change” in that sad, bankrupt country, ultimately resulting in a coup d’etat (or putsch) in Kiev in February 2014 in which neo-fascists played a key role. The coup occurred because the U.S. State Department and Pentagon hoped to replace the democratically elected administration with one that would push for Ukraine’s entry into NATO, a military alliance designed from its inception in 1949 to challenge Russia. The ultimate intent was to evict the Russian Black Sea Fleet from the bases it’s maintained on the Crimean Peninsula for over 230 years.
Personally, I believe this interpretation is basically true, and that any rational person should recognize that it’s true. Victoria Nuland, the neocon thug who serves as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and is the key official shaping U.S. Ukraine policy, openly admitted to an “international business conference on Ukraine” in December 2013 that Washington had “invested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine achieve [the development of democratic institutions] and other goals.”
She repeated this assertion in an CNN interview, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has proudly reiterated it as well on cable news. The unspoken goal was Ukraine’s membership in NATO.
(Imagine if a top-ranking official in the Russian Foreign Ministry were to boast of a $ 5 billion Russian investment in undermining the Mexican or Canadian government, with an aim towards incorporating one of those countries into an expanding military alliance. John McCain and Fox News would be demanding the immediate nuking of Moscow.)
Russia, as you know, has relatively few naval bases for a country its size. These face the Barents and Baltic Seas to the north, surrounding Scandinavia. In 1904, when Russian forces were attacked by the Japanese navy at Port Arthur in Manchuria, Russia had to dispatch the Baltic fleet to the region in a voyage requiring six months (and ending in the disastrous Battle of Tsushima). Russian geography poses obstacles to a strong navy.
There is one Russian naval base in Astrakhan on the landlocked Caspian Sea (which is really a vast lake, from which one can sail to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran or Azerbaijan but nowhere beyond). And there are several bases in or near Vladivostok on the Siberian Pacific coast, which is iced over part of the year, as well as bases on the Kamchatka Peninsula north of Japan. Russia has a modest naval base at Tartus on the Syrian coast, and a logistics base in Cam Rahn Bay in Vietnam. But the only bases with ready access to the Mediterranean and thence the Atlantic or Indian oceans are those in and around Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea.
Compare the U.S. with over 30 major naval bases on its east and west coasts and Hawaii, and others—some of them huge—in Japan, Italy, Cuba, Bahrain, Diego Garcia and elsewhere! There are more naval bases in the state of California than in the entirety of the Russian Federation.
The U.S. has military personnel stationed in about 130 countries in the world—that is, in two-thirds of the countries who are members of the UN. In contrast, Russia has military forces stationed in, by my count, ten foreign countries, eight of them on its borders. And yet the U.S. press and political class depict Russia and specifically its president Vladimir Putin, a threatening juggernaut. (Just as they once did Saddam Hussein, that lame creature demonized as—as the warmongers always do, before attacking and destroying him—“a new Hitler.”)
Any student at a U.S. university, enrolled in an interdisciplinary program in “international relations” (and educated, as is the norm, by political scientists of the “realist” school) is likely to conclude that—leaving aside the vilified personality of Putin—any Russian leader would insist on retaining the Crimean military assets. Anyone at all! Retention of that historic real estate is a no-brainer. Any outsiders with designs on it (which would include the hawks leading the U.S. Republican Party) are simply unrealistic if not brain-dead.
How could any Russian leader say to Victoria Nuland, “Fine, go ahead, take it,” and hand over this ethnic-Russian region—locus of the Crimean War of 1853-56 and some of the bloodiest battles against the Nazis in World War II, locus of the fateful Yalta meeting between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in February 1945–to forces overtly hostile to Russia? Forces that moreover are inclined to praise Ukrainian fascists who during World War II collaborated with the Nazis, even rounding up Jews for the slaughter at their bidding?
The Reuters article referenced above confirms the intention of the U.S-installed regime to formally apply for NATO membership. It cites Oleksander Turchynov, head of the new regime’s national security council, as stating to the parliament that NATO membership was “the only reliable external guarantee” of Ukrainian “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” (As though Russia, which had a cordial relationship with the previous President Viktor Yanukovich—who, let us repeat, was elected in a poll universally regarded as legitimate and democratic in 2010—has in recent times challenged the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine or any other country!)
It thus validates the key Russian charge that this is all about NATO—the NATO that, following George H. W. Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 that the alliance would not advance “one inch” towards Russia’s borders has in fact advanced to surround European Russia since 1999. NATO now includes Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Albania, all expected by group rules to devote 2% of their GDPs to the mutual “defense” effort.
If it does not include Russia’s other neighbors, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia, it is not for lack of trying. The “National Endowment for Democracy” (a “private, non-profit organization” used by the State Department to fund regime change abroad) has sought to draw all of them into NATO. As though this were the most natural thing in the world, for all peoples living in countries bordering Russia to aspire to join an anti-Russian alliance!
Nuland’s talking points for popular consumption on Ukraine include the assertion that the U.S. supports “the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations.” She ignores the fact that the country is deeply divided between east and west, and that in the east there are substantial “Russian aspirations” deeply rooted in a history she does not and indeed disdains to even try to understand. She also conceals the fact that U.S. support for regime change in Ukraine, leading up to the February 22, 2014 coup, was not really based on U.S. support for Ukraine’s entry in the European Union.
The EU is a trading bloc that challenges the U.S. and NAFTA. In a world of imperialist competition for markets and resources, the EU and the U.S. often disagree. Washington is angry that EU members Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Luxembourg are all joining the Chinese-led investment bank Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), mainly because it’s likely to boost the Chinese currency and contribute to the decline of the dollar as the international reserve currency. Congress fumes over the EU’s refusal to allow importation of Monsanto’s genetically modified food products. The U.S. State Department is not in the business of promoting EU membership. That’s not what this is about.
In 2013 Hillary Clinton’s State Department seized on the decision made by ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to back away from a deal he’d initialed with the EU. His advisors told him the austerity regime the EU would impose would be unacceptable, while Russia offered a generous aid package including continued supply of cheap gas.
Yanukovich’s decision to opt for the latter option was based on economic logic, and eminently defensible in economic terms. But the U.S. actively fanned the flames of a movement which depicted Yanukovich’s decision as a betrayal of Ukrainian nationhood and a statement of fealty to Russia. Hence Nuland’s oft repeated sound bite about “European aspirations.” As though Ukraine hadn’t always been part of Europe! As though “Europe” were some shining star, and all those horrible inflictions of terror on the Ukrainian Socialist Republic by European fascists during the 1940s were irrelevant. And as though submission to a Greek-style EU-inspired austerity regime would bring relief to the suffering Ukrainian masses.
In fact, Nuland’s own thoughts on “European aspirations” were sweetly summarized in her phone conversation with U.S. ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt just before the putsch in early February 2014. Quite probably leaked by Russian intelligence, and never disavowed by the State Department, the recording shows how Nuland had hand-picked the current prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, for his post over rivals Oleh Tyanybok (leader of the neo-fascist Svoboda Party, who has publically inveighed against the “Moscow-Jewish mafia ruling Ukraine” and referred to “Muscovites” and Jews as “scum) and Vitali Klitschko, a former boxer and sometimes anti-corruption activist.
In the phone call, Pyatt tells her “I think we’re in play,” meaning everything’s set for a coup. “The Kitschko piece is obviously the complicated electron here, especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister…I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot as to where he fits into this scenario.” Pyatt had apparently informed Kitschko that despite some EU backing, he was not a suitable candidate for the U.S. (In the call, Nuland blandly asserts that he needs more time “to do his homework.”)
Nuland wanted to marginalize Klitschko, who in the coup’s aftermath was awarded (as consolation prize) the post of Kiev mayor, She wanted to make sure that the former Minister of the Economy, Yatsenyuk, advocate of severe austerity measures and proponent of NATO membership, succeeded Yanukovich.
The phone call makes clear that Nuland had recruited UN officials to endorse the regime change.
Towards the end of the conversation, Nuland tells Pyatt “OK,” signaling that the two agreed on the general strategy. She then alludes to the welcome complicity of several other assets: Jeff Feltman, Robert Serry, and Ban Ki-moon.
She reports that Jeff Feltman has “now gotten both Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday.” Meaning: to help facilitate the coup and validate it afterwards.
Who are these people? Geoffrey Feltman, a career U.S. diplomat, was at the time the UN Under Secretary-General of Political Affairs. He is perhaps best known for his tenure as U.S. ambassador to Lebanon between 2004 and 2008 when he exercised so much influence that Hizbollah—echoed by other parties—referred to the Fouad Siniora government as the “Feltman government.”
Robert Serry is a Dutch diplomat who served as NATO’s Assistant Secretary-General of Foreign Crisis Management and Operations between 2003 and 2005 and also had been Dutch ambassador to Ukraine. An advocate of Dutch participation in the Iraq War based on lies, he was a reliable U.S. ally.
Ban Ki-moon is of course the UN Secretary-General who, as South Korea’s foreign minister, pressed for the deployment of South Korean troops in that same Iraq war based on lies. We know from Wikileaks that, prompted by the U.S., he urged the UN Security Council to ignore the UN Board of Inquiry’s report on the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2008-2009 to avoid U.S. and Israeli embarrassment. It’s safe to call him a reliable U.S. puppet.
Towards the end of the intercepted phone call Nuland signs off: “So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.” Fuck them, that is to say, if their ideas about Ukraine’s future differ from our own.
So much for respect for anybody’s “European aspirations.”
In the same phone call, Nuland notes that Yatsenyev “will need Klitschko and Tyahnybok on the outside, he needs to be talking to them four times a week.” One has to ask: what’s more disgusting, the fact that the U.S. State Department would so attempt to micro-manage a regime change in a sovereign state, or that this neocon Nuland (who just so happens to be Jewish) representing the U.S. government, would urge the U.S. puppet to routinely network with a neo-fascist who describes Jews as “scum”?
In this case, commitment to the expansion of NATO cause plainly trumps the resistance to anti-Semitism cause. Nuland ought to be ashamed of herself.
When confronted last May in a House hearing by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher with photographic evidence of the role of neo-Nazis in the Maidan events, Nuland acknowledged that “there were many colors of Ukraine involved including very ugly colors.” She didn’t mention her own photos with Tyahnybok, all smiles, or her instruction to “Yats” to be on the phone with him four times a week.
The Radio Free Europe article referenced above begins: “The controversial leader of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector paramilitary group has been named an army adviser. Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesman Oleksey Mazepa announced on April 6 that Dmytro Yarosh would ‘act as a link between volunteer battalions and the General Staff.’ Yarosh’s Right Sector militia claims to have some 10,000 members, but so far has not officially registered with the government as other paramilitary forces have done. The Right Sector militia is fighting alongside Ukrainian government troops against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.”
The neo-fascist Right Sector was formed in 2013 during the Maidan protests in Kiev, amalgamating a number of groups aligned to the Svoboda Party. As the latter was striving for international respectability, its leaders meeting with Nuland and John McCain among others, the Right Sector functioned as its violent activist contingent. It was almost certainly involved in sniper fire on the square, attributed to the regime and used to validate its overthrow.
Now its head is awarded a government post, to coordinate the actions of the right-wing militias (most notoriously the Azov Battalion, which proudly sports Nazi insignia and has attacked civilian targets in east Ukraine). Does this not validate the Russian charge that there is a strong fascist component to the regime?
The situation is complicated. The neo-fascist shock troops deployed to pull off the putsch are not in favor of EU membership. They don’t want its tolerance for diversity, its immigration rules. They have a vision of White Power manifest in their varied symbols, that include Confederate flags, certain Celtic crosses, and swastikas. They might not even favor NATO membership. But as the Radio Free Europe article indicates, their support is valued and needed by the regime.
No matter that Dmytro Yarosh is wanted by Interpol for “public incitement to terrorist activities” for threatening to destroy Russian pipelines in Ukraine. He’s a necessary part of a team, and Washington backs the team. And the State Department and captive media pooh-pooh any suggestion that there’s any fascism here, or any underhanded effort to encircle Russia. It’s all about Ukrainian “freedom,” supported by its benign self, which has in recent memory visited such memorable liberations on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.
There is a fascist-friendly regime in Ukraine, ushered into power by the U.S. State Department. And it does want to enter NATO, and weaken Russia—if possible, by re-establishing control over Crimea and booting the Russian fleet out. Given German opposition to its admission into the alliance, it is doubtful that will occur short-term.
But with crazies running the U.S. State Department, successfully promoting a bogus narrative about what’s happened in Ukraine over the last two years—a narrative echoed slavishly by a clueless mainstream media—it’s just barely conceivable that there might come a day in which U.S. forces join the Azov Battalion in battling forces of the People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.
It won’t have anything to do with “freedom,” any more than the last few U.S. wars have had anything to do with that abstraction. It will be about imperial expansion, which while it might serve the .01% that rules this country, is not in your interest at all.
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: email@example.com
The US is Pushing The World Towards Nuclear War April 8, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, Imperialism, Media, Russia, Ukraine, War.
Tags: colin todhunter, corporate media, imperialism, Media, NATO, putin, roger hollander, u.s imperialism, ukraine, ukraine coup
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Roger’s note: we live in a world where the ruling capitalist elites in the United States (and its allies), Russia, China, etc. drive their governments to greater imperial adventures, at the risk of nuclear war.
NATO countries are to all intents and purposes at war with Russia. The US knows it and Russia knows it too. Unfortunately, most of those living in NATO countries remain blissfully ignorant of this fact.
The US initiated economic sanctions against Russia, has attacked its currency and has manipulated oil prices to devastate the Russian economy. It was behind the coup in Ukraine and is now escalating tensions by placing troops in Europe and supporting a bunch of neo-fascists that it brought to power. Yet the bought and paid for corporate media in the West keeps the majority of the Western public in ignorance by depicting Russia as the aggressor.
If the current situation continues, the outcome could be a devastating nuclear conflict. Washington poured five billion dollars into Ukraine with the aim of eventually instigating a coup on Russia’s doorstep. Washington and NATO are supporting proxy forces on the ground to kill and drive out those who are demanding autonomy from the US puppet regime in Kiev. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the border into Russia. Yet it is Washington that accuses Moscow of invading Ukraine, of having had a hand in the downing of a commercial airliner and of ‘invading’ Ukraine based on no evidence at all – trial by media courtesy of Washington’s PR machine. As a result of this Russian ‘aggression’, Washington slapped sanctions on Moscow.
The ultimate aim is to de-link Europe’s economy from Russia and weaken Russia’s energy dependent economy by denying it export markets. The ultimate aim is to also ensure Europe remains integrated with/dependent on Washington, not least via the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and in the long term via US gas and Middle East oil (sold in dollars, thereby boosting the strength of the currency upon which US global hegemony rests). The mainstream corporate media in the West parrots the accusations against Moscow as fact, despite Washington having cooked up evidence or invented baseless pretexts. As with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and other ‘interventions’ that have left a trail of death and devastation in their wake, the Western corporate media’s role is to act as cheerleader for official policies and US-led wars of terror. The reality is that the US has around 800 military bases in over 100 countries and military personnel in almost 150 countries. US spending on its military dwarfs what the rest of the world spends together. It outspends China by a ratio of 6:1. What does the corporate media say about this? That the US is a ‘force for good’ and constitutes the ‘world’s policeman’ – not a calculating empire underpinned by militarism. By the 1980s, Washington’s wars, death squads and covert operations were responsible for six million deaths in the ‘developing’ world. An updated figure suggests that figure is closer to ten million. Breaking previous agreements made with Russia/the USSR, over the past two decades the US and NATO has moved into Eastern Europe and continues to encircle Russia and install missile systems aimed at it. It has also surrounded Iran with military bases. It is destabilising Pakistan and ‘intervening’ in countries across Africa to weaken Chinese trade and investment links and influence. It intends to eventually militarily ‘pivot’ towards Asia to encircle China. William Blum has presented a long list of Washington’s crimes across the planet since 1945 in terms of its numerous bombings of countries, assassinations of elected leaders and destabilisations. No other country comes close to matching the scale of such criminality. Under the smokescreen of exporting ‘freedom and democracy’, the US has deemed it necessary to ignore international laws and carry out atrocities to further its geo-political interests across the globe.
Writing on AlterNet.org, Nicolas JS Davies says of William Blum’s book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II: if you’re looking for historical context for what you are reading or watching on TV about the coup in Ukraine, ‘Killing Hope’ will provide it. Davies argues that the title has never been more apt as we watch the hopes of people from all regions of Ukraine being sacrificed on the same altar as those of people in Iran (1953); Guatemala(1954); Thailand (1957); Laos (1958-60); the Congo (1960); Turkey (1960, 1971 & 1980); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); South Vietnam (1963); Brazil (1964); the Dominican Republic (1963); Argentina (1963); Honduras (1963 & 2009); Iraq (1963 & 2003); Bolivia (1964, 1971 & 1980); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Greece (1967); Panama (1968 & 1989); Cambodia (1970); Chile (1973); Bangladesh (1975); Pakistan (1977); Grenada (1983); Mauritania (1984); Guinea (1984); Burkina Faso (1987); Paraguay (1989); Haiti (1991 & 2004); Russia (1993); Uganda (1996);and Libya (2011).
Davies goes on to say that the list above does not include a roughly equal number of failed coups, nor coups in Africa and elsewhere in which a US role is suspected but unproven. The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) is a recipe for more of the same. The ultimate goal, based on the ‘Wolfowitz Doctrine, is to prevent any rival emerging to challenge Washington’s global hegemony and to secure dominance over the entire planet. Washington’s game plan for Russia is to destroy is as a functioning state or to permanently weaken it so it submits to US hegemony. While the mainstream media in the West set out to revive the Cold War mentality and demonise Russia, Washington believes it can actually win a nuclear conflict with Russia. It no longer regards nuclear weapons as a last resort but part of a conventional theatre of war and is willing to use them for pre-emptive strikes. Washington is accusing Russia of violating Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, while the US has its military, mercenary and intelligence personnel inside Ukraine. It is moreover putting troops in Poland, engaging in ‘war games’ close to Russia and has pushed through a ‘Russian anti-aggression’ act that portrays Russia as an aggressor in order to give Ukraine de facto membership of NATO and thus full military support, advice and assistance. Washington presses ahead regardless as Russia begins to undermine dollar hegemony by trading oil and gas and goods in rubles and other currencies. And history shows that whenever a country threatens the dollar, the US does not idly stand by. Unfortunately, most members of the Western public believe the lies being fed to them. This results from the corporate media amounting to little more than an extension of Washington’s propaganda arm. The PNAC, under the pretext of some bogus ‘war on terror’, is partly built on gullible, easily led public opinion, which is fanned by emotive outbursts from politicians and the media. We have a Pavlov’s dog public and media, which respond on cue to the moralistic bleating of politicians who rely on the public’s ignorance to facilitate war and conflict. Former US Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst has spoken about the merits of the Kiev coup and the installation of an illegitimate government in Ukraine. Last year, he called the violent removal of Ukraine’s democratically elected government as enhancing democracy. Herbst displayed all of the arrogance associated with the ideology of US ‘exceptionalism’. He also displayed complete contempt for the public by spouting falsehoods and misleading claims about events taking place in Ukraine.
And now in Britain, the public is being subjected to the same kind of propaganda by the likes of Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond with his made-for-media sound bites about Russia being a threat to world peace:
“We are now faced with a Russian leader bent not on joining the international rules-based system which keeps the peace between nations, but on subverting it… We are in familiar territory for anyone over the age of about 50, with Russia’s aggressive behaviour a stark reminder it has the potential to pose the single greatest threat to our security… Russia’s aggressive behaviour a stark reminder it has the potential to pose the single greatest threat to our security.”
In a speech that could have come straight from the pen of some war mongering US neocon, the US’s toy monkey Hammond beats on cue the drum that signals Britain’s willingness to fall in line and verbally attack Putin for not acquiescing to US global hegemonic aims.
The anti-Russia propaganda in Britain is gathering pace. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said that Putin could repeat the tactics used to destabilise Ukraine in the Baltic states. He said that NATO must be ready for Russian aggression in “whatever form it takes.” He added that Russia is a “real and present danger.” Prior to this, PM David Cameron called on Europe to make clear to Russia that it faces economic and financial consequences for “many years to come” if it does not stop destabilising Ukraine.
Members of the current administration are clearly on board with US policy and are towing the line, as did Blair before. And we know that his policy on Iraq was based on a pack of lies too.
If Putin is reacting in a certain way, it is worth wondering what the US response would be if Russia had put its missiles in Canada near the US border, had destabilised Mexico and was talking of putting missiles there too. To top it off, imagine if Russia were applying sanctions on the US for all of this ‘aggression’.
What Russia is really guilty of is calling for a multi-polar world, not one dominated by the US. It’s a goal that most of humanity is guilty of. It is a world the US will not tolerate.
Herbst and his ilk would do well to contemplate their country’s record of wars and destabilisations, its global surveillance network that illegally spies on individuals and governments alike and its ongoing plundering of resources and countries supported by militarism, ‘free trade’ or the outright manipulation of every major market. Hammond, Fallon and Cameron would do well to remember this too. But like their US masters, their role is to feign amnesia and twist reality.
The media is dutifully playing its part well by keeping the public ignorant and misinformed. A public that is encouraged to regard what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Libya, etc, as a confusing, disconnected array of events in need of Western intervention based on bogus notions of ‘humanitarianism’ or a ‘war on terror’, rather than the planned machinations of empire which includes a global energy war and the associated preservation and strengthening of the petro-dollar system.
Eric Zuesse has been writing extensively on events in Ukraine for the last year. His articles have been published on various sites, but despite his attempts to get his numerous informative and well-researched pieces published in the mainstream media, he has by and large hit a brick wall (he describes this here).
This is because the corporate media have a narrative and the truth does not fit into it. If this tells us anything it is that sites like the one you are reading this particular article on are essential for informing the public about the reality of the aggression that could be sleepwalking the world towards humanity’s final war. And while the mainstream media might still be ‘main’, in as much as that is where most people still turn to for information, there is nothing to keep the alternative web-based media from becoming ‘mainstream’.
Whether it involves Eric’s virtually daily pieces or articles by other writers, the strategy must be to tweet, share and repost! Or as Binu Mathew from the India-based Countercurrents website says: “It is for those who want to nurture these alternative communication channels to spread the word to tell the world about these avenues. ‘Each one reach one, each one teach one’ can be a good way to sum up.”
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.
Extolling Ukraine’s Extreme-Right March 9, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Imperialism, Media, Russia, Russia, Ukraine, War.
Tags: canada media, globe and mail, Media, nato aggression, putin, roger annis, roger hollander, toronto star, ukraine, ukraine coup, ukraine neo-nazi, ukraine rightists
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Roger’s note: it borders on the surrealistic. The mainstream corporate media, not to mention Goebbels like US government propaganda, have flooded our brains with a narrative that describes the Ukraine conflict is a matter of Putin led Russian aggression. This, of course, ignores the reality of the US assisted right wing coup against an elected, albeit corrupt, Ukraine government and NATO’s push up against the very Russian border. Putin, of course, is no saint; he is corrupt and dictatorial, and this only feeds into the US ability to demonize him. However, it is not Russian corruption that bothers the US government lackeys, rather Putin as a defender of Russian sovereignty. It is all about the expansion of the US led western empire. And, with the growing influence of right wing eschatological nutcase Republicans in the United States government, not to mention macho uberhawk Hillary Clinton, there is the real possibility it will escalate into a nuclear conflagration.
Canada’s Toronto Star and Globe and Mail Join In
Writers at the largest national daily newspaper in Canada, the Globe and Mail, have lately joined writers at the Toronto Star in publishing articles extolling the fundraising efforts in Canada of Ukraine’s extreme-right.
This comes in the form of two recent news articles in the Globe, including one by its long-standing correspondent in Europe, Mark MacKinnon.
MacKinnon reported on Feb. 27 in the Globe and Mail from the warehouse in Kyiv where ‘Army SOS’ gathers the military supplies that it purchases or receives and then provides to the extreme-right battalions fighting Ukraine’s war against its citizens in the east of the country.
As an article by me on Feb. 20 reported, writers at the Toronto Star have also been promoting ‘Army SOS’. The military equipment provided by financial or direct donations has included technology for improving the accuracy of Ukrainian rocket and artillery attacks against the towns and cities of eastern Ukraine.
MacKinnon describes ‘Army SOS’ as “a volunteer organization that aids Ukraine’s warriors in the field”. He writes, “Ukraine’s myriad volunteer battalions are famed for their bravery, as well as for their sometimes-extreme nationalism. Along the front line, they are often the ones engaged in the toughest fighting against the rebel army that Kiev and NATO say is armed by Moscow.”
Actually, MacKinnon’s “warriors” are mostly “famed” for their extreme-right or neo-Nazi views. The most well-known among them, including the ‘Donbass’, ‘Aidar’, Azov and Dniper battalions, have been cited by journalists and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, for kidnappings, torture and executions. They have been condemned for blockading humanitarian shipments into eastern Ukraine.
The rightists do not limit their crimes to warmaking in Ukraine’s east. They are also organized politically, including as members of Ukraine’s Parliament (Rada). Some are represented through their own political parties, such as the openly fascist ‘Right Sector’, while others have entrenched themselves in the ‘parties’ (actually, electoral machines) of President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Across Ukraine today, free expression is severely curtained. The extreme right conducts vigilante attacks against public expressions of concern about the war or the disastrous state of Ukraine’s economy and national finances. The rightists are at the forefront of advocating draconian laws and pushing them through the Rada. These laws have closed down newspaper and television stations and allow the government to control internet publishing. A law currently before the Rada would authorize lengthy jailing of those protesting the government’s war in the east or its economic policies.
The violence and crackdown in Ukraine is couched in the language of fighting “separatism” and “pro-Russian separatism”. To close down an uncomfortable idea in Ukraine, it is enough to shout “separatism” loudly enough. The word refers to the demands of Russian-speaking and other nationally-distinct Ukrainians who want a voice in their political and economic destiny.
Fundraising in Toronto for Ukrainian rightists
A second Globe and Mail article along the same lines as that of MacKinnon was published on March 2 by commissioned writer Sahar Fatima. She reported on a fundraising dinner for ‘Army SOS’ in Toronto on February 28 that raised $52,000.
The young journalist wrote, “Throughout Saturday’s event, speakers and organizers tried to drill home the message that Ukraine is a David fighting a malicious Goliath, Russia, bent on snatching its freedom and autonomy. The only way Ukraine stands a chance is if organizations such as Army SOS help level the playing field using donations from the public, attendees heard.”
A keynote speaker at the event was Ihor Kozak, a “defence and security expert” and a retired Canadian military officer. He wants the NATO confrontation with Russia to be escalated, the Globe article reports, including by providing more advanced weapons to Ukraine, extending the economic sanctions in place against Russia, and more bankrolling of the Ukrainian government and its military.
The ‘all-out war’ theme was also cited by MacKinnon when he quoted Lenna Koszarny. She is the head of the Kiev arm of the extremist Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). He reported:
“Is the [Ukrainian] diaspora at war with Russia? Absolutely,” says Ms. Koszarny, 45. “The diaspora is helping Ukraine defend itself. How do we do that? In any which way we can.”
MacKinnon neglected to mention an interesting fact about Koszarny. She is Chief Executive Officer and a founding partner in 2006 of the Horizon Capital investment firm in Ukraine. Another of the founding partners is none other than Natalie Jaresko, the U.S. citizen who was appointed late last year to be Ukraine’s minister of finance.
Jaresko is currently embroiled in legal battles for her handling of an investment fund that was created in 1994 with $150 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The fund was earmarked for spurring capitalist business activity in Ukraine. Horizon Capital took over the managing of it when the firm was created.
Another of the rightist fundraising efforts in Canada mentioned in both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star is ‘Patriot Defense’.
A prominent player in the rightist fundraising efforts and in the pages of the Globe and Star, is the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Recently, the organization co-organized and sponsored a speaking tour to Canada and the United States of one of the extremist members of the Ukrainian Rada, Andriy Paruiby.
Parubiy was feted by the Conservative Party government in Ottawa on February 23. He met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson and with members of Parliament. His message to the government, reported in the Globe and Mail, is that he wants Canada to use its influence in Washington to convince the U.S. government to provide more lethal and advanced weaponry to Ukraine.
Parubiy is one of the founders of modern-day, extreme-right politics in Ukraine. He founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine (SNPU) in 1991. It went on to spawn other fascist or extreme-right formations, including the large, present-day Svoboda Party. Svoboda’s leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, was a founder with Parubiy of the SNPU.
Parubiy has sought to moderate his image in recent years, but he wrote in 2008: “I was one of the founders of SNPU and since that time, my political views and ideology haven’t changed.” During the EuroMaidan protest movement in 2013/early 2014, he was a commander of the extreme-right shock troops that battled police and closed off Maidan Square to political forces with less extreme, pro-Europe views.
In a briefing note to the Canadian government on Feb. 9, 2015, the UCC listed four things it wants the government to do “in order to assist the people of Ukraine as they fight bravely to protect their country from foreign aggression”:
1. Provide lethal, defensive military weapons, intelligence, equipment and military advisors.
2. Enact decisive sectoral economic sanctions against the Russian Federation’s military.
3. Ensure the political isolation of the Putin regime.
4. Declare the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “Peoples’ Republics” as terrorist organizations, and designate the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The UCC note says, “Thousands of regular and irregular Russian troops are in Ukraine along with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery, and are directly engaged in an invasion of sovereign Ukrainian territory”.
This paranoid, detached-from-reality description is also sounded in a lobbying document in early 2015 co-authored by the very influential, neo-conservative and pro-NATO Atlantic Council, in the United States. The document is titled ‘ Preserving Ukraine’s independence, resisting Russian aggression: What the United States and NATO must do’. It argues vigorously in favour of arming Ukraine to the teeth. “The West has the capacity to stop Russia. The question is whether it has the will.”
The ceasefire which Kyiv and its backers were obliged to accept last month should be serving as a time to address the underlying political issues in the conflict in Ukraine, notably the demands of the people in eastern Ukraine and other regions of the country for a real say in the running of the country–or even for the right to a future independent of Ukraine, should they so choose.
Instead, there is the danger that the pause in fighting may serve merely as an occasion for Ukraine’s government and extremist paramilitaries to regroup and re-arm, while NATO presses ahead with its sanctions and other threats against Russia. Unfortunately, that’s the message coming from the ‘war parties’ in NATO capitals.
It is disturbing, to say the least, to see the extreme right in Ukraine being extolled in the pages of the leading newspapers of Canada. And if anyone in the Parliament in Ottawa is opposed to the drive for war against Russia and the feting of extremists, they are not making their voices heard. Progressive-minded Canadians need to push back against all this. Encouragingly, the torrent of critical commentary by readers of the Globe and Mail in response to the articles it published soft-pedaling Ukraine’s extreme-right is a strong indicator that Canadians are wanting to do just that.
Roger Annis is an editor of the website ‘The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond‘.
It’s Time To Free the Arctic 30 & Stand Up Against Fossil Fuel Extraction Everywhere November 16, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Russia.
Tags: arctic 30, civil disobedience, climate change, daryl hannah, envrionment, fossil fuel, global warming, greenpeace, keystone xl, phil radford, putin, roger hollander
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All around the globe, record numbers of people from all walks of life are being thrown into jails because they are standing up to protect the most basic of human needs — uncontaminated water, unpolluted lands, and a liveable climate free from the ramifications of extreme fossil fuel extraction. If the greed-driven fossil fuel extraction corporations — and the governments that do their bidding to assure sustained record profits — don’t stop endangering our critical and already-compromised life support systems, there is little doubt that the numbers of individuals standing up will grow exponentially. People are increasingly recognizing the critical necessity to safeguard our communities and our ecosystems, and growing numbers around the world are taking that bold step to engage in the time-honored tradition of peaceful civil disobedience as a means of alerting others to the dangers that threaten us all. This map from The Public Society shows some of the major protests against fossil fuel extraction in the past year alone, and the reach is staggering.
Those of us who choose civil disobedience as a tactic, often of last resort, do so not because they are looking to get away with a crime, but because we are seeking to shine a light on laws that allow for injustice to prevail. No one wants to go to jail. But the history of righting terrible wrongs is first a history of individuals putting their bodies on the line, risking arrest, facing uncertain circumstances and sometimes going to jail (or worse), long before the nation or the world awakens to the realities of what amounts to legalized decimation, injustice, and oppression.
There were times in our history here in the United States of America where the law of the land allowed slavery, prohibited women the right to vote, left children unprotected by labor laws, and didn’t guarantee the civil rights of all citizens. In the USA’s many hard-fought movements of great social progress — the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, labor and civil rights movements, as well as the free speech, peace, and environmental justice movements — there have always been those who were out in front, laying their bodies on the line and leading the way — well before the lawmakers followed with new legislation designed to make this a “more perfect union.”
The climate movement is well underway, and thousands of peaceful protesters and interventionists have already put their bodies and freedom on the line. As the world grapples with how to recognize the first of its climate refugees, and as it becomes desperately clear that carbon pollution must be urgently addressed, the quest for more difficult to access and dirtier oil and gas has never been more furious. In the states, lawmakers in the pocket of extraction industry make the pillaging easier and the public health concerns more profound by allowing exemptions from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act. So, in the US alone, over 76,000 have pledged to engage in dignified acts of peaceful civil disobedience if the debacle that is the KeystoneXL pipeline is allowed to proceed through our country’s heartland.
The third largest threat to our planetary climate — third only to mining nearly all of China and Australia’s coal — would be drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, where oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice in this most sensitive region on earth. If their plan were to succeed, despite the technical obstacles and enormous environmental risks, the drilling would add 520 million tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere per year, as much as all of Canada’s annual global warming pollution.
That’s why Greenpeace activists and independent journalists determined to bring this urgent threat to humanity to light journeyed to the Russian Arctic to protest the first ever offshore Arctic oil drilling project. On September 19th, consistent with the tradition of peaceful direct action, Greenpeace activists scaled a Gazprom oil platform to hang a banner off of the side. They hoped to bring awareness of the frightening risks of runaway climate change and the devastating effect of oil spills that Arctic drilling could bring to the world.
The Russian Federal Security Services responded with force, firing 11 warning shots into the water just inches away from the Greenpeace small inflatable boats. Two activists were taken by the knife wielding agents, while the other 28 activists and journalists remained on the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise.
The next day, in international waters, 15 masked Russian troops rappelled on to the Arctic Sunrise from a helicopter, held all 28 civilians onboard at gunpoint, and seized the ship.
The Arctic 30 have been in Russian custody since.
While even President Putin said the activists and journalists were “obviously not pirates;” the Russian authorities detained and charged all 30 with piracy – a crime that carries a 15 year jail sentence in Russia. A few weeks ago, they added “hooliganism,” charges which carry even more disproportionate penalties of up to 7 years in jail. The illegal arrests on international waters and the outrageous charges have been condemned by governments and many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, while people in 220 cities from Jakarta to Hong Kong to California marched, calling for the release of the Arctic 30.
The disproportionate Russian response is like unleashing attack dogs on a sit-in.
History has shown us that peaceful activism is vital when all else fails to respond appropriately to the most pressing issues of our time. The great practitioners of non-violent direct action as a means of achieving social change knew this and practiced it only with love in their hearts. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr both said in so many words, “if a law is unjust, it is your responsibility to break it.” MLK once said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That one profound statement of moral genius succinctly exemplifies why the world must not be silent until the Arctic 30 are once again free.
Please stand in solidarity with those who were willing and compelled to go to the front lines on behalf of all future generations. The risks that these activists have taken, and the cost to them personally and to their loved ones, need you to relentlessly demand that Russia free the Arctic 30 — and of course that the world move swiftly, urgently and in earnest to a planet powered by clean energy.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s Prison Letters to Slavoj Žižek November 16, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Revolution, Russia.
Tags: anti-capitalism, capitalism, democracy, freedom, nadezhda tolokonnikova, performance art, pussy riot, putin, revolution, roger hollander, slavoj zizek
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Roger’s note: I hope you find this correspondence as fascinating as I did. The left/progressive blogosphere these days is publishing more anti-capitalism analyses than ever. I am a life-long Marxist Humanist, so the notion of capitalism is something I have been thinking about for years (decades, actually). What I find troubling is that very few writers either attempt or demonstrate a precise understanding of exactly what capitalism is. Capitalism is not simply an ideology, although there are more than enough capitalist ideologues; and capitalism is not primarily about so-called free markets, nor is state ownership anything less than pure genuine capitalism (prime example: China). To understand what a genuine transformation of society will be, it is important to have a historical understanding of how capitalist economic relations developed. More important is the need to understand exactly what capitalist economic relationships ARE, and that has to do with the basic structure under which goods and services are PRODUCED (again, not marketed). Karl Marx discovered an entire new continent of thought that takes us into the heart of notions of human freedom and exploitation via capitalist economic relations. Much too complex for me to go into here; I just want to point out that being anti-capitalist is necessary but not sufficient. The dialogue below is a good example of revolutionary activist thinking, striving to understand in order to transform.
Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is currently in a prison hospital in Siberia; here she and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek meet in an extraordinary exchange of letters
2 January 2013
I hope you have been able to organise your life in prison around small rituals that make it tolerable, and that you have time to read. Here are my thoughts on your predicament.
John Jay Chapman, an American political essayist, wrote this about radicals in 1900: “They are really always saying the same thing. They don’t change; everybody else changes. They are accused of the most incompatible crimes, of egoism and a mania for power, indifference to the fate of their cause, fanaticism, triviality, lack of humour, buffoonery and irreverence. But they sound a certain note. Hence the great practical power of persistent radicals. To all appearance, nobody follows them, yet everyone believes them. They hold a tuning-fork and sound A, and everybody knows it really is A, though the time-honoured pitch is G flat.” Isn’t this a good description of the effect of Pussy Riot performances? In spite of all accusations, you sound a certain note. It may appear that people do not follow you, but secretly, they believe you, they know you are telling the truth, or, even more, you are standing for truth.
But what is this truth? Why are the reactions to Pussy Riot performances so violent, not only in Russia? All hearts were beating for you as long as you were perceived as just another version of the liberal-democratic protest against the authoritarian state. The moment it became clear that you rejected global capitalism, reporting on Pussy Riot became much more ambiguous. What is so disturbing about Pussy Riot to the liberal gaze is that you make visible the hidden continuity between Stalinism and contemporary global capitalism.
[Žižek then explores what he sees as a global trend towards limiting democracy.] Since the 2008 crisis, this distrust of democracy, once limited to third-world or post-Communist developing economies, is gaining ground in western countries. But what if this distrust is justified? What if only experts can save us?
But the crisis provided proof that it is these experts who don’t know what they are doing, rather than the people. In western Europe, we are seeing that the ruling elite know less and less how to rule. Look at how Europe is dealing with Greece.
No wonder, then, that Pussy Riot make us all uneasy – you know very well what you don’t know, and you don’t pretend to have any quick or easy answers, but you are telling us that those in power don’t know either. Your message is that in Europe today the blind are leading the blind. This is why it is so important that you persist. In the same way that Hegel, after seeing Napoleon riding through Jena, wrote that it was as if he saw the World Spirit riding on a horse, you are nothing less than the critical awareness of us all, sitting in prison.
Comradely greetings, Slavoj
23 February 2013
Once, in the autumn of 2012, when I was still in the pre-trial prison in Moscow with other Pussy Riot activists, I visited you. In a dream, of course.
I see your argument about horses, the World Spirit, and about tomfoolery and disrespect, as well as why and how all these elements are so connected to each other.
Pussy Riot did turn out be a part of this force, the purpose of which is criticism, creativity and co-creation, experimentation and constantly provocative events. Borrowing Nietzsche’s definition, we are the children of Dionysus, sailing in a barrel and not recognising any authority.
We are a part of this force that has no final answers or absolute truths, for our mission is to question. There are architects of apollonian statics and there are (punk) singers of dynamics and transformation. One is not better than the other. But it is only together that we can ensure the world functions in the way Heraclitus defined it: “This world has been and will eternally be living on the rhythm of fire, inflaming according to the measure, and dying away according to the measure. This is the functioning of the eternal world breath.”
We are the rebels asking for the storm, and believing that truth is only to be found in an endless search. If the “World Spirit” touches you, do not expect that it will be painless.
Laurie Anderson sang: “Only an expert can deal with the problem.” It would have been nice if Laurie and I could cut these experts down to size and take care of our own problems. Because expert status by no means grants access to the kingdom of absolute truth.
Two years of prison for Pussy Riot is our tribute to a destiny that gave us sharp ears, allowing us to sound the note A when everyone else is used to hearing G flat.
At the right moment, there will always come a miracle in the lives of those who childishly believe in the triumph of truth over lies, of mutual assistance, of those who live according to the economics of the gift.
4 April 2013
I was so pleasantly surprised when your letter arrived – the delay made me fear that the authorities would prevent our communication. I was deeply honoured, flattered even, by my appearance in your dream.
You are right to question the idea that the “experts” close to power are competent to make decisions. Experts are, by definition, servants of those in power: they don’t really think, they just apply their knowledge to the problems defined by those in power (how to bring back stability? how to squash protests?). So are today’s capitalists, the so-called financial wizards, really experts? Are they not just stupid babies playing with our money and our fate? I remember a cruel joke from Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not to Be. When asked about the German concentration camps in occupied Poland, the Nazi officer snaps back: “We do the concentrating, and the Poles do the camping.” Does the same not hold for the Enron bankruptcy in 2002? The thousands of employees who lost their jobs were certainly exposed to risk, but with no true choice – for them the risk was like blind fate. But those who did have insight into the risks, and the ability to intervene (the top managers), minimised their risks by cashing in their stocks before the bankruptcy. So it is true that we live in a society of risky choices, but some people (the managers) do the choosing, while others (the common people) do the risking.
For me, the true task of radical emancipatory movements is not just to shake things out of their complacent inertia, but to change the very co-ordinates of social reality so that, when things return to normal, there will be a new, more satisfying, “apollonian statics”. And, even more crucially, how does today’s global capitalism enter this scheme?
The Deleuzian philosopher Brian Massumi tells how capitalism has already overcome the logic of totalising normality and adopted the logic of erratic excess: “The more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normality starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening is part of capitalism’s dynamic.”
But I feel guilty writing this: who am I to explode in such narcissistic theoretical outbursts when you are exposed to very real deprivations? So please, if you can and want, do let me know about your situation in prison: about your daily rhythm, about the little private rituals that make it easier to survive, about how much time you have to read and write, about how other prisoners and guards treat you, about your contact with your child … true heroism resides in these seemingly small ways of organising one’s life in order to survive in crazy times without losing dignity.
With love, respect and admiration, my thoughts are with you!
16 April 2013
Has modern capitalism really overtaken the logic of totalising norms? Or is it willing to make us believe that it has overpassed the logic of hierarchical structures and normalisation?
As a child I wanted to go into advertising. I had a love affair with the advertising industry. And this is why I am in a position to judge its merits. The anti-hierarchical structures and rhizomes of late capitalism are its successful ad campaign. Modern capitalism has to manifest itself as flexible and even eccentric. Everything is geared towards gripping the emotion of the consumer. Modern capitalism seeks to assure us that it operates according to the principles of free creativity, endless development and diversity. It glosses over its other side in order to hide the reality that millions of people are enslaved by an all-powerful and fantastically stable norm of production. We want to reveal this lie.
You should not worry that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the “real hardship”. I value the strict limits, and the challenge. I am genuinely curious: how will I cope with this? And how can I turn this into a productive experience for me and my comrades? I find sources of inspiration; it contributes to my own development. Not because of, but in spite of the system. And in my struggle, your thoughts, ideas and stories are helpful to me.
I am happy to correspond with you. I await your reply and I wish you good luck in our common cause.
10 June 2013
I felt deeply ashamed after reading your reply. You wrote: “You should not worry about the fact that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the ‘real hardship’.” This simple sentence made me aware that the final sentiment in my last letter was false: my expression of sympathy with your plight basically meant, “I have the privilege of doing real theory and teaching you about it while you are good for reporting on your experience of hardship …” Your last letter demonstrates that you are much more than that, that you are an equal partner in a theoretical dialogue. So my sincere apologies for this proof of how deeply entrenched is male chauvinism, especially when it is masked as sympathy for the other’s suffering, and let me go on with our dialogue.
It is the crazy dynamics of global capitalism that make effective resistance to it so difficult and frustrating. Recall the great wave of protests that spilled all over Europe in 2011, from Greece and Spain to London and Paris. Even if there was no consistent political platform mobilising the protesters, the protests functioned as part of a large-scale educational process: the protesters’ misery and discontent were transformed into a great collective act of mobilisation – hundreds of thousands gathered in public squares, proclaiming that they had enough, that things could not go on like that. However, what these protests add up to is a purely negative gesture of angry rejection and an equally abstract demand for justice, lacking the ability to translate this demand into a concrete political programme.
What can be done in such a situation, where demonstrations and protests are of no use, where democratic elections are of no use? Can we convince the tired and manipulated crowds that we are not only ready to undermine the existing order, to engage in provocative acts of resistance, but also to offer the prospect of a new order?
The Pussy Riot performances cannot be reduced just to subversive provocations. Beneath the dynamics of their acts, there is the inner stability of a firm ethico-political attitude. In some deeper sense, it is today’s society that is caught in a crazy capitalist dynamic with no inner sense and measure, and it is Pussy Riot that de facto provides a stable ethico-political point. The very existence of Pussy Riot tells thousands that opportunist cynicism is not the only option, that we are not totally disoriented, that there still is a common cause worth fighting for.
So I also wish you good luck in our common cause. To be faithful to our common cause means to be brave, especially now, and, as the old saying goes, luck is on the side of the brave!
13 July 2013
In my last letter, written in haste as I worked in the sewing shop, I was not as clear as I should have been about the distinction between how “global capitalism” functions in Europe and the US on the one hand, and in Russia on the other. However, recent events in Russia – the trial of Alexei Navalny, the passing of unconstitutional, anti-freedom laws – have infuriated me. I feel compelled to speak about the specific political and economic practices of my country. The last time I felt this angry was in 2011 when Putin declared he was running for the presidency for a third time. My anger and resolve led to the birth of Pussy Riot. What will happen now? Time will tell.
Here in Russia I have a strong sense of the cynicism of so-called first-world countries towards poorer nations. In my humble opinion, “developed” countries display an exaggerated loyalty towards governments that oppress their citizens and violate their rights. The European and US governments freely collaborate with Russia as it imposes laws from the middle ages and throws opposition politicians in jail. They collaborate with China, where oppression is so bad that my hair stands on end just to think about it. What are the limits of tolerance? And when does tolerance become collaboration, conformism and complicity?
To think, cynically, “let them do what they want in their own country”, doesn’t work any longer, because Russia and China and countries like them are now part of the global capitalist system.
Russia under Putin, with its dependence on raw materials, would have been massively weakened if those nations that import Russian oil and gas had shown the courage of their convictions and stopped buying. Even if Europe were to take as modest a step as passing a “Magnitsky law” [the Magnitsky Act in the US allows it to place sanctions on Russian officials believed to have taken part in human-rights violations], morally it would speak volumes. A boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 would be another ethical gesture. But the continued trade in raw materials constitutes a tacit approval of the Russian regime – not through words, but through money. It betrays the desire to protect the political and economic status quo and the division of labour that lies at the heart of the world economic system.
You quote Marx: “A social system that seizes up and rusts … cannot survive.” But here I am, working out my prison sentence in a country where the 10 people who control the biggest sectors of the economy are Vladimir Putin’s oldest friends. He studied or played sports with some, and served in the KGB with others. Isn’t this a social system that has seized up? Isn’t this a feudal system?
I thank you sincerely, Slavoj, for our correspondence and can hardly wait for your reply.
• The correspondence was organised by Philosophie magazine in cooperation with New Times. Longer versions can be found in German at philomag.de or in French at philomag.com. Tolokonnikova’s letters were translated from Russian by Galia Ackerman
Putin Bans Protests In Sochi During 2014 Winter Olympics Amid Outrage At Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws August 23, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Russia, Sports.
Tags: 2014 Sochi Olympics, Putin Bans Sochi Protests, Putin Homophobia, Putin Homophobic, Putin Protests, roger hollander, russia, Russia Anti-Gay Laws, russia olympics, Sochi, Sochi Gay Rights, Sochi Protests, vladimir putin, winter olympics, World News
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Roger’s note: Who writes the script for the IOC? Lewis Carroll? George Orwell? Franz Kafka” The IOC assures us that it is going to make clear Putin’s position on discrimination, which is: there will be no discrimination, but the discriminatory law will be enforced.” Perfectly clear.
A demonstrator holds a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin with make-up as he protests against homophobia and repression against gays in Russia, in front of the Russian Embassy in Madrid on August 23, 2013. (GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA 08/23/13 02:22 PM ET EDT
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning demonstrations and rallies for two and a half months in Sochi around the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, published the presidential decree Friday, listing an array of measures tightening security in the Olympic host city, including the ban on public assemblies. All “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” that are not part of the Olympics or the Paralympics will be prohibited in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, the decree said.
The Winter Olympics is taking place Feb. 7-23 in the Black Sea resort, and the Paralympics are being held March 7-16.
Government-imposed protest bans across entire cities where Olympics are held are unusual. Putin’s decree could be aimed at heading off demonstrations against Russia’s ban on alleged gay propaganda, a new law that has been sharply criticized in the West.
Among other measures in the decree are restrictions on vehicles entering Sochi. Only cars with local license plates, emergency vehicles and those accredited by the Olympic organizers will be allowed to enter the host city between Jan. 7 and March 21.
Rights organizations have voiced concerns about what they described as the “harassment and intimidation of civil society” advocates in Sochi. Human Rights Watch said in a statement that environmental, human rights and other activists have been “the targets of attacks, detention for peaceful protests and police searches.”
The International Olympic Committee received a letter Thursday from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak giving assurances that the host country will comply with the Olympic Charter’s provision against discrimination of any kind. The letter, however, defended Russia’s new anti-gay law and said it would be enforced.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said Friday that he is “comforted” by Russia’s assurance the charter’s ban on discrimination will be respected.
“We are going to inform now all the national Olympic committees and all the athletes who want to have clarity,” Rogge told reporters after addressing the U.N. General Assembly.
Gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev told The Associated Press on Friday that he would petition the Supreme Court next week to contest the presidential decree banning rallies in Sochi as “violating our right of freedom of assembly.”
Russian authorities have repeatedly denied gay activists’ applications to set up a Pride House in Sochi during the games, but Alexeyev said he would apply for permission to hold a gay pride rally in Sochi on the opening day of the games anyway.
Olympics Petition Delivered August 7, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Russia, Sports.
Tags: all out, anti-gay, anti-gay crackdown, gay rights, human rights, lgbt, olympic committee, olympics, olympics petition, putin, roger hollander, russia, russia olympics, winter olympics
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Today in Switzerland: more than 50 All Out members delivered our petition of over 322,000 names from around the world to the International Olympic Committee.
In fewer than 200 days, Russia will host the Winter Olympics. Their anti-gay laws are fuelling terrible violence and murders across the country and they fly in the face of the Olympic values of friendship and respect.
That’s why we gathered at Olympics HQ today to ask the Olympic Committee to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay crackdown, face-to face.
The Olympic Committee hasn’t hosted such a gathering before! Their Director of Communications accepted the massive petition and held a long meeting with us.
He listened to our concerns and announced that the Olympic Committee has now asked for the Russian government to state in writing that no athletes or visitors will be persecuted because they are gay. That shows they’re feeling our pressure to do more – but it’s not enough.
We’re going to keep asking the Olympic Committee to be a true guardian of Olympic values, by speaking out against the Russian anti-gay crackdown. The International Association of Athletics Federations spoke out today – it’s time for the Olympics to follow.
Today the 1.8 millionth member joined All Out, and together we did something really important for people power. We showed the biggest world leader in sport that we’re not just anonymous names on the internet. We’re real people and we want them to speak out for love and equality.
Right now, we’re figuring out the next things we can do together to persuade the Olympic Committee to speak out. If we can do it, it will build the pressure on President Putin to stop the anti-gay crackdown. So watch out for the next call to action!
Thanks for going All Out,
Andre, Guillaume, Hayley, Jeremy, Joe, Marie, Mike, Tile, and the rest of the All Out team.
PS: Recently, more than 3,738 All Out members chipped in for a fighting fund to power the campaign. That meant we could send some of our team to Switzerland to deliver the petition in person. There’s so much more to do – and it’s not too late to help by chipping in to support All Out. Click here to donate: https://www.allout.org/donate
White House Criticizes Russia For Edward Snowden Meeting July 13, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Russia, Whistle-blowing.
Tags: edward snowden, Edward Snowden Russia, Politics News, propaganda, putin, Us Russia Snowden, Us Snowden, whistle blower, White House Russia, White House Russia Snowden, White House Snowden
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Roger’s note: I call your attention to the following remarks of White House spokesman Jay Carney (AKA Joseph Goebbels):
“Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident. He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony counts and should be returned to the United States … Our concern here is that he’s been provided this opportunity to speak in a propaganda platform.”
Thus speaketh the United States Government Ministry of Truth (AKA Ministry of Propaganda).
PS. I would have loved to listen in to the conversation between heavyweight contender Vladimir Putin and featherweight wannabe Barack Obama. Can you imagine Obama, who regularly caves in to the Republican misfits, standing up to a former KGB chief? Drones over the Kremlin?
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE 07/12/13 06:47 PM ET EDT
WASHINGTON — The White House criticized Russia on Friday for allowing National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to meet with human rights activists, calling it a “propaganda platform” for the man who seeks to avoid prosecution for leaking classified information about secret U.S. electronic surveillance programs.
A Russian lawmaker who was among the officials who met privately with Snowden in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport on Friday said Snowden wants asylum in Russia and is willing to stop sharing the secrets in his possession in exchange for such a deal.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Russia should instead send Snowden back to the U.S. to face the felony charges that are pending against him.
“Providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government’s previous declarations of Russia’s neutrality and that they have no control over his presence in the airport,” Carney said. “It’s also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage U.S. interests.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki used similar language to express disappointment over the meeting.
“We are disappointed that Russian officials and agencies facilitated this meeting today by allowing these activists and representatives into the Moscow airport’s transit zone to meet with Mr. Snowden despite the government’s declarations of Russia’s neutrality with respect to Mr. Snowden,” Psaki said. “Our concern here is that he’s been provided this opportunity to speak in a propaganda platform.”
President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Snowden, among other issues, during a telephone call on Friday, the White House said in a terse statement that provided no specifics of their conversation about the NSA leaker. Carney said the call was planned several days ago, suggesting that it was unrelated to Snowden’s meeting with the activists.
Carney said Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident. “He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony counts and should be returned to the United States,” the spokesman said.
Carney also urged the Russian government to “afford human rights organizations the ability to do their work in Russia throughout Russia, not just at the Moscow transit lounge.”
Snowden is believed to have been staying at the airport transit zone since June 23, when he arrived by air from Hong Kong. He fled to Hong Kong from the U.S. before his revelations were made public. Snowden had been expected to transfer in Moscow to a Cuba-bound flight, but he did not get on the plane.
He made an initial bid for asylum in Russia, but Putin said Snowden would have to agree to stop leaking the classified information in his possession before asylum would be considered. Snowden then withdrew his bid.
It was not immediately clear whether Russia would take Snowden up on his latest request for asylum. The Kremlin has signaled that it wants him out of the country. Granting asylum could further test U.S.-Russia relations.
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua recently offered Snowden asylum.
At the State Department, Psaki denied that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, had telephoned a representative from Human Rights Watch. The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, which has been assisting Snowden, said in a statement that McFaul called the Human Rights Watch representative on her way to the airport and asked her to relay a message to Snowden that he is not considered a whistle-blower and was wanted in the United States.
Psaki said a U.S. Embassy officer placed the call.
“Ambassador McFaul did not call any representative from Human Rights Watch,” she said. “An embassy officer did call to explain our position … but at no point did this official or any official from the U.S. government ask anyone to convey a message to Mr. Snowden.”
Psaki confirmed, however, that U.S. officials have been in touch with individuals who attended the meeting.
Pussy Riot and the Two Russias August 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Civil Liberties, Russia.
Tags: dissent, free speech, katrina vanden heuvel, political protest, protect, protest music, punk rock, pussy riot, putin, roger hollander, russia, russia opposition, russia patriotism, russian orthodox
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(Credit: Igor Mukhin)
Pussy Riot is here to stay. International attention has mounted over the months since three members of the punk rock/protest group were imprisoned for a fifty-one-second stunt. All the more so this week, as their trial—on “hooliganism” charges—finally began.
As I’ve described before, members of the group seized the stage of Russia’s iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral just before the country’s March elections, performing (and recording) a musical plea to the Virgin Mary to oust Vladimir Putin. The cadre of Russian artists and activists descended from the performance artists Voina (“War”), who were influenced by the US punk movement Riot grrrl. Its story might have ended there, if not for a truly authoritarian response from the Russian government. Three alleged participants were arrested, threatened with seven years of imprisonment, and placed in a pre-trial detention that’s been extended for months. Now, Pussy Riot is world famous—as is its stunt. The longer they’re in prison, the more attention they get.
It’s been gratifying to see the outpouring of support for these women. It’s come from insiders and outsiders alike, in Russia and abroad. Key Putin backers have broken with him on Pussy Riot. More than 400,000 Russians have signed an online petition protesting their arrest and detention. The Washington Post editorialized in defense of the activists. Punk artists around the world have voiced their solidarity. British writer Stephen Fry has called on his more than 4.6 million Twitter followers “to do everything to help Pussy Riot” and “pressure Putin” in connection with the trial. Amnesty International named Pussy Riot prisoners of conscience; its US activists have planned a guerilla art exhibit and a solidarity concert at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC.
The crackdown on Pussy Riot is part of a broader attack on dissent in Russia. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the introduction and rapid passage of a quartet of laws that undermine Russia’s democratic ambitions: (Re-)criminalization of “defamation”; a blacklist of “harmful” websites; punitive fines on participants in “unsanctioned” protests; and a mandate that nonprofits declare foreign funding and brand themselves “foreign agents.” Russia, alas, is not the only country cracking down on political freedom. But these broadly worded, swiftly passed laws represent another wave in Russia’s de-democratization, a process started under Boris Yeltsin and continued under Putin.
The righteousness of the Pussy Riot cause is clear-cut: courageous activists up against punitive suppression. As someone who’s worked with the women’s movement in Moscow, and as a longtime student of Russia, it’s horrific to watch the mistreatment of these women, and heartening to see them draw the support they deserve, both outside the country and within it.
But lost in much of the coverage is a sobering reality: there are two Russias. The country’s deep divisions are reflected in the polling on Pussy Riot, with only a 43 percent plurality telling pollsters that a potential two-to-seven-year sentence is disproportionate. Why? There’s more in place here than simple offense at their act.
To many Russians, Russia feels like two different countries: one is urban, hyper-Westernized, aggressively modern, and seems condescending in its attitude to ordinary people; the other is the Russian heartland in the regions and provinces, where people are suffering economically and believe they’re guarding the country’s traditional values and religious convictions. This is the lens through which some Russians view Pussy Riot’s imprisonment: not individual freedom of conscience versus the state but national pride and religious faith versus a well-off, urban elite. Putin has masterfully stoked such resentments, framing the resistance to his authority as an affront to the values of the nation (a segment on state TV last month called protests in defense of Pussy Riot a “vanity fair”). Too many Western journalists ignore or underestimate the effectiveness of that appeal.
Putin’s key partner in this has been the Russian Orthodox Church. In recent years, the church has grown in clout while growing ever closer to the Kremlin. The church’s spokesperson announced that God had personally shared with him, “just like he revealed the gospels to the church,” that He “condemns” what Pussy Riot did. Cynically or in earnest, church leaders are nurturing a patriarchal, paternalistic form of patriotism, and its power and popularity are growing as a result (US readers: this may sound familiar). The prosecution’s indictment against the artists cites “blasphemous acts” and “weighty suffering” of believers—despite Russia’s supposed separation of church the state. That’s a sign of how flimsy the legal case against Pussy Riot is, but also of the church’s role in modern Russia.
In a case replete with ironies, here’s the final one: even as Putin reaps political benefit from the resentments of this other Russia, his economic and social policies are poised to hit its citizens hardest—and his most prominent critics in the opposition are on board as well. Last month ushered in a fairly dramatic increase in utility and transit costs. And austerity, Russia-style, is coming to other sectors as well: neoliberal “reforms” are on the way in education, housing and pensions. These changes will mean socio-economic disaster for already-suffering Russians, many in regions far-flung from Moscow. What is little reported in the West is that Putin’s own critics, those who’ve led many of the street protests in Moscow, also back these measures. These include elite critics like former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Boris Nemtsov and Ksenia Sobchak, once the Paris Hilton of Russia until she became its Pasionaria. Perhaps that should be no surprise: they’re not the ones about to get hurt.
It is heartening to see the broad attention being paid to the three women of the Pussy Riot group. But perhaps it’s time for some reporting on the millions of working or unemployed Russians who will bear the brunt of economic policies hatched by the Putin government and supported by many of its opposition critics. Putin’s repression has sparked vibrant pro–Pussy Riot activism. The efforts on behalf of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Fear have been important. But if the opposition really wants to mobilize a mass movement for political, social and economic change, it will have to bring the Two Russias back together. That will mean developing a program that calls for fair elections and combating corruption, while also resisting neoliberal measures that will privatize public education and gut pensions. Simply put, the activism we’ve witnessed in these last months will need to expand to encompass Freedom from Want. The fate of the next Pussy Riot could depend on it.