[Marxism] Fwd: Russian Bolsheviks, Ukrainian Communists, and the Comintern: How Russian Bolsheviks Shaped Foreign Radical Leftist Views on Ukraine, by Stephen Velychenko | KRYTYKA

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 21 09:46:39 MST 2017

Those who follow Ukrainian issues today know that many foreigners who 
consider themselves radical leftists oppose that country’s attempt to 
break away from its former imperial master. Surprisingly, they support 
the attempt of a capitalist Russian government that legitimates itself 
in terms of religion, has an imperialist foreign agenda based on 
settler-colonist minorities beyond its borders, and subscribes to 
“spheres of influence” thinking to re-impose its control over Ukraine. 
It is a re-imposition that, as of 2014, involved the use of military 
force in Ukraine.1 Such a position is at odds with such fundamental 
statements of left-wing positions as the Zimmerwald Manifesto of 1915 
and Trotsky’s 1939 comments on Ukraine’s experience of Stalinism:2

	The bureaucracy strangled and plundered the people within Great Russia, 
too. But in Ukraine matters were further complicated by the massacre of 
national hopes. Nowhere did restrictions, purges, repressions and in 
general all forms of bureaucratic hooliganism assume such murderous 
sweep as they did in Ukraine in the struggle against the powerful, 
deeply-rooted longings of the Ukrainian masses for greater freedom and 

Their stance places such leftists alongside those they normally regard 
as their enemies: big bankers, corporate directors, and lawyers who 
profit from their contacts with Vladimir Putin and his associates, as 
well as pro-Kremlin fascist and neo-Nazi parties in their respective 
countries.3 Normally, North American and EU pro-Kremlin radical leftists 
have little influence on the foreign policies of their countries. 
Academic analysts who do not research radicalism normally ignore them. 
However, they deserve attention today because, together with the other 
above-mentioned pro-Kremlin groupings and parties, they influence public 
opinion, and sometimes a government foreign policy decision, in matters 
related to Russia and Ukraine. Internet commentary on Maidan-related 
articles reveals that many such leftists share the Russian government’s 
anti-Ukrainian position.4 EU voters recently gave approximately the same 
percentage of votes to radical left as to radical right parties 
(8-10%).5 Certainly, specific political circumstances account for this 
phenomenon. 6 However, there is also a historical factor that explains 
why many in today’s foreign Left, who without hesitation oppose 
Anglo-American neo-colonialism and neo-liberal capitalism within their 
own countries, suspend their avowed anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, 
anti-corporate democratic ideals when looking at what is Russian 
neo-colonialism in eastern Europe and Ukraine.7

While foreign pro-Russian leftists differ among themselves in details, 
they share, along with Putin and the Kremlin ruling elite, two basic 
ideas. First, that Russia has a “sphere of influence” like the US, but 
that unlike those living within the US “sphere,” those living within the 
Russian “sphere” should make no effort to rid themselves of Russian 
domination and/or hegemony. And, second, that “nationalism” in Ukraine 
never had and does not have today the “progressive” role such leftists 
assign, or assigned to, countries subject to American or western 
European imperialism or to neo-imperialist and neo-colonialist rule. In 
their view, Russian migrants to Ukraine were not settler-colonists, as 
claimed by Ukrainian Marxists, and Russian rule in, or control over, 
Ukraine neither was nor is imperialist or colonialist. Implicit in these 
assumptions is the Russian Bolshevik idea that “the proletariat” could 
not be chauvinist or nationalist, and that “socialism” could not be 

Although the USSR, the CPSU, and the Comintern no longer exist and 
Putin’s ruling circle no longer shares the latter two opinions, networks 
of comrades still subscribe to such notions. Pro-Kremlin leftists, in 
short, are blind to Russian imperialism past and present.8 A major step 
in channeling foreign radical leftists to think about Russia and its old 
empire according to such Russo-centric criteria and blinding them to the 
existence of a Ukrainian anti-colonial Marxist tradition occurred in 
1920 when Russian Bolshevik leaders excluded the Ukrainian Communist 
Party, from the Second Comintern Congress.


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