Russia vs. Ukraine

Stalingrad after the victory

The US left, such as it is, is all over the map regarding the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Too many are buying the US imperialist propaganda that Putin (unlike our own cabal of billionaires) is a power-hungry oligarch. Too many believe that the attack was provoked by the US/NATO backed coup in 2014 against a pro-Russian government in the Ukraine. Me? I’ll be honest: I don’t know. I do know, that even if it was provoked, the invasion is wrong. I support the Russian protesters against the war. At the same time, the Ukraine is no Denmark. The fascist movement there is vicious and powerful, even though it may not control the government at this time.

All of the analyses I’ve read lack context, which goes back at least to the German invasion of the USSR in 1941 (if not back to 1917). We are eternally indebted to the USSR for defeating Hitler. We should remember that the USSR lost 24 million people (military and civilian) in that war, 13% of its 1941 population, way more than anyone else. Germany lost less than 9 million. No question the loss of so many, a lot of them soldiers in their productive prime, crippled the USSR’s capacity to compete with the US, especially militarily. The US lost 419,000 in WWII, less than half of its recent COVID loss. 

Which brings us to the puzzling collapse of the USSR. From what I can tell, few people died in this debacle. It was not a good thing for the world, as it gave free reign to US imperialism, inspiring them to attack Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and other emerging nations. I know what should have happened instead: a free-ranging discussion among all the communist parties in the Soviet Union as to how to democratize its politics without conceding too much power to the emerging capitalist class — how to unleash the power of the working classes that had been suppressed for too long. 

The collapse was the fault of the communist movement as a whole, which didn’t allow democratic discussion within its ranks. Democratic centralism is a powerful tool, but one more abused than used. The tool calls for free ranging discussion of policy within the Party, followed by a vote, followed by a commitment to implement the majority decision (even if you didn’t agree with it). Stalin, yeah, but subsequent rulers as well up to Gorbachev, who went too far too fast. Our darling left has a tendency to vacillate between being too ruthless and not ruthless enough. 

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