Reply to Phil, Gary, Carrol, Jonathan and others

Paul Flewers paul.flewers at
Wed Oct 6 23:44:23 MDT 1999

Alan Bradley replied to Macdonald Stainsby: < In the situation Macdonald
describes, it is the duty of the Bolsheviks to 'work with' the Ukrainian
nationalists, not the duty of the nationalists to 'work with' the
Bolsheviks. >

This implies that the Bolsheviks were an alien imposition into Ukraine.
In fact, the Bolsheviks had many adherents in Ukraine, in the big cities
of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa, and also in the Donbas industrial area.

This also implies that there was a coherent Ukrainian national movement.
There wasn't, as it was divided into many different factions, with
differing ideas of what an independent Ukraine meant. Quite a few
elements on the Ukrainian left, most notably the Borotbists (similar in
outlook to the Left Socialist Revolutionaies), worked with the
Bolsheviks, and many members of them, as with the Bund, joined them. The
strongest Ukrainian national sentiments were amongst the West Ukrainians
in Galicia, which did not come under Soviet rule until 1939. Most
Ukrainian peasants -- and it should be remembered that the Ukrainians of
the former Russian Empire were largely a peasant people with small
numbers of urban middle-class and working-class people -- lacked much
idea of Ukrainian national consciousness (Ukrainian nationalists were to
complain of this continually), and backed whatever side they thought
would give them land. Hence, they backed the Bolsheviks when they said
'land to the peasants', and opposed them when they requisitioned their
grain -- just like the Russian peasants.

Also, the various Ukrainian national governments that were based in Kyiv
did not control much Ukrainian territory during 1918-21, as much of it
came under German, Soviet, White Guard Russian or anarchist control, if
it had any government at all.

It is interesting to ask with what Ukrainian nationalists the Bolsheviks
could have worked. If, as happened, the Ukrainian Bolsheviks staged an
uprising which was then attacked by Ukrainian government forces, should
the Russian Bolsheviks not defend their comrades in Ukraine? The first
Ukrainian government refused to allow the Soviet government to transport
troops through Ukrainian territory to fight Denikin's White Guards in
South Russia, Lenin insisted that troops go through Ukraine, and an
ultimatum was sent to Kyiv. Right or wrong? Petliura's Ukraine Directory
was hostile to the Bolsheviks, and tried to link up with Pilsudski
against them.

The Bolsheviks -- both Ukrainian and Russian -- made some severe errors
of judgement in Ukraine, not least in respect of at first not using
Ukrainian as the official language. But when it comes between the
defence of a workers' revolution in the former Russian Empire as a
whole, and the attempts to set up a bourgeois Ukrainian state, I think
the choice for Marxists is clear. Whilst not making any concessions to
Great Russian chauvinism, the interests of the working class as a whole
come before that of a bourgeois Ukraine.

Paul F

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