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On the Left or in Russia? The Strange Case of Foreign pro-Kremlin Radical Leftists

Stephen Velychenko
September 3, 2014

All governments face people living beyond their borders, both foreign and native-born, who are either detractors or advocates of its policies. Vladimir Putin’s government is no different from any other in this respect. What is odd about the Russian case is that radical leftists are among those who support the Russian ruling class and its decidedly capitalist and imperialist government.

The triumphal rise of corporate power, neo-liberal capitalism, and neo-conservative/right-wing Republican influence on US foreign policy during the last 20 years gave Marxism and radical leftists new relevance. EU voters recently gave approximately the same percentage of votes to radical left as radical right parties (8-10%). Radical political leftists present themselves as advocates for oppressed and dispossessed individuals groups societies or countries, and opponents of unjustifiable inequalities and exploitation. In practice, they are selective about which social labour and national movements they support. Pro-Kremlin leftists oppose Ukraine’s Maidan movement, Ukrainian national ambitions in general. They support Putin’s territorial claims against Ukraine and the Russian neo Nazis waging war against the newly elected Ukrainian government.

Not all who hold radical left views are necessarily affiliated with a political party – as shown by the Occupy Movement. Among these, internet comment on Maidan-related articles suggest there are many pro Russian European and North American leftists who share the Russian government’s anti Ukrainian position. Typical well known examples of such post 1991 non-party affiliated leftists are Noam Chomsky and John Pilger who have no interest in any evil that cannot be linked to America nor in the victims of such evil.

Since 1991 pro Kremlin leftists have been either been silent on or supportive of regimes in China, North Africa, Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe, the Congo, fundamentalist Islamists, and Arab Baathists. Now Putin’s government, and pro Russian neo Nazi and fascist parties can be added to the list. Activists, workers, indigenous minorities and groups or persons with grievances against, opposed to or miserable due to the above listed governments or groups are ignored or condemned. Alongside the Russophilism, neo Soviet sympathies, material interest, delusion and ignorance that can account for this double standard among pro Kremlin leftists, is the anti-Americanism that has overshadowed anti-imperialism in their thinking. This world view plays a key role in keeping such leftists as amenable to Russian government media and continued Russian domination of Ukraine now as they were before 1991.

Anti- Americanism is a set of beliefs that classifies imperialism as a singular specific American rather than global phenomenon that discounts or ignores competition between imperialists and intra capitalist rivalries. Anti- Americanism bears little relation to Lenin's concept of rival imperialist ruling classes divided within and engaged in an unending struggle with one another that dominated classes groups and nations might exploit. Instead, anti- americanists restrict “imperialism” to the objectives of a corporate controlled US government that supposedly dominates a bloc without fundamental intra ruling- class differences. Such a perspective leads believers to see the world as a stage for a duel between a capitalist USA and NATO on one side, and capitalist Russia on the other ---with possible allies like India Brazil and China. On this manichaen stage, Ukraine must remain Russian so the US does not get stronger. Middle or working class Ukrainians who see benefit in the EU, the massive support for the Maidan, a long tradition of Ukrainian anti-colonialism, and the possibility of future support from Ukrainian leftists in the fight against neo liberal capitalism within the EU, have no place on this stage. Nor does the possibility that Ukrainians might prefer the EU to the Russian variant of neo liberal capitalism because experience has shown them the latter is more destructive and rapacious than the former. Russian-style neo-soviet capitalism as exists in Ukraine is not tempered by a strong left opposition, trade unions, independent political parties and rule of law -- what Marx considered the “bourgeois rights and liberties” established in Europe between 1789 and 1914.

Such anti Americanism has little in common with Marx or Trotsky. It has much in common with people who have nothing to do with socialism or marxism like Carl Schmitt, Aleksandr Glaziev, Vladimir Putin and Aleksander Dugin. According to the anti-Americanist script, those who support EU membership for Ukraine are dupes in a fascist plot, run by the USA and NATO and its new puppet Kyiv “junta” government. Ukrainian national ambitions and independence are synonymous with what pro Kremlin leftists and Russian leaders call fascism. [1]

Russian communist leaders who condemned any manifestations of Ukrainian national independence as “fascist” had no problems with real Nazis or fascists as long as they were pro Russian. Thus, Stalin’s treaties with Fascist Italy (1933) and Nazi Germany (1939) – that obliged Stalin to deliver refugee German communists back to Germany. Those leftists in Europe who thought state control of the economy amounted to socialism accommodated themselves to these treaties and dutifully supported Russian annexation of Finnish territory in 1940 as a defensive measure against British imperialism. When Hitler’s 1941 invasion made Nazism and Fascism anti –Russian, Stalin and his associates made “anti fascism” synonymous with pro –Russian in a formula that did not clearly distinguish between Nationalism, Fascism and Nazism. Today this formula is still used by Russian leaders and foreign pro Kremlin leftists. Stalin’s formula had profound implications for non Russians in the USSR opposed to a Kremlin rule that they identified with Russia. Basically, it permitted his representatives and supporters to label all non Russian opposition fascist and, implicitly, Nazi. This semantic trick discredited such opposition in the eyes of uninformed foreigners much more effectively than the term “anti- Russian” could have done by adding a class aspect to what is basically a national issue – Russian rule over foreign countries.

Despite the collapse of the USSR, the introduction of neo liberal capitalism in Russia and, the authoritarian nature of Putin’s government, a sizable number of foreign leftists have remained politically pro –Kremlin. In 2004, in step with Russia’s leaders, they condemned Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. In 2014 they condemned the Euromaidan. Supporting Russia’s new capitalist government, like they had its old soviet government, these leftists did not condemn Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, or his sponsorship of neo imperialist Russian neo Nazis armed gangs in eastern Ukraine. In neither year did they organize mass anti-colonialist anti-imperialist anti Russian demonstrations in any US or EU city.

Pro Kremlin leftists who consider themselves radical marxists and are normally censorious, if not disparaging of US corporate media and governmental pronouncements, do not extend that critical doubt to Russian government media. Despite being funded and controlled by an authoritarian right-wing government, foreign leftists read and retransmit accounts from this official outlet as well as anonymous ostensibly private non-leftwing pro Russian outlets like Slavyangrad and Vineyardsaker. These accounts include anti -Ukrainian horror stories. In July 2014, for instance, Dugin claimed Ukrainian troops crucified a child, while Russia Today purported the Ukrainian government was teaching children nazi slogans and conducting ethnic cleansing in eastern Ukraine. Both these stories were removed when they were exposed – but not before unknown thousands had seen them. [2]

In so far as Putin’s capitalist government has an ideology it is traditionalist, clericalist, and imperialist. Putin declared at the ceremony marking the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, forgetting about the Jews and the Chinese, that the Russian people are the largest geographically disconnected people in the world and that he sees it as his job to unite them all in a single state. Like its tsarist precursor, todays government includes in the cabinet the head of the Russian Orthodox church – now called a Patriarch instead of an Oberprokurator. While not all academics consider Putin’s government fascist they do consider it right-wing authoritarian. For Russian leaders, a high percentage of whom made their careers alongside Putin in the KGB, Ukrainian independence is a “historical accident.” Ukrainians are really “Little Russians” loyal to Russia and not much different from Russians and, they are unrelated to a supposed minority of extremist nationalists obsessed with a perverse idea of independence. Today’s borders are artificial, Ukrainian society is supposedly deeply divided and it is a failed state – “not a country” as Putin told US President Bush in 2008. Ukrainian citizens who want political cultural and economic independence from Russia are extremists, fascists, and nazis who will repress Russians. [3] This is a world view normally attributed to Dugin although it incorporates elements of official Stalinist ideology and its roots reach back to various early 20th century loyalist Russian rightist extemists then called “Black Hundreds.”

Foreign radical leftist repetition and dissemination of official Russian government views about Ukraine coincided in 2014 with the formation of a pro Russian anti-EU, extreme right/far left alliance in the European Parliament – along the lines of the 1933 and 1939 treaties. Both groups consider Putin Ukraine’s savior from “western imperialism.” The pro Kremlin EU extreme leftists allied with the EU extreme rightists offer no explanation of why pro capitalist EU fascists and neo nazis are worthy allies while pro capitalist Ukrainian fascists and neo Nazis are not. Besides bone fide fascists, except those of the Ukrainian variety, pro Kremlin radical leftists are also in bed with another of the Kremlin’s allies, fundamentalist Christian Evangelicals. [4]

"Borotba," "Liva," "," "," "," "," "World Socialist Website," ",'" "," "," "Canadian Dimension" and "," are 12 radical left sites whose editors share anti- Americanist premises. They regularly post pro- Kremlin, anti- Maidan, and anti -Ukrainian articles that identify the 2014 conservative Ukrainian government containing Russians and Jews as a fascist “regime” exploiting Russians and oppressing “freedom fighters” in the Donbass. Few of these sites list who finances them. How many like Globalresearch, which is probably funded by the Kremlin, is unknown. [5] Some of these pro- Kremlin leftist authors cite official Russian media or Russian neo nazi sites. Others have no compunction to travel to Russian occupied territory to anonymously financed conferences and sign declarations supporting the foreign policy interests of the Russian ruling class. [6]

Like Kremlin officials, these foreign radical leftists condemn Ukrainians who in any EU country would be termed “patriots” as "fascists," which they do not distinguish from Nazis, or from conservatives – or even from nationalists. Preoccupied with a relatively weak Ukrainian extremist right they ignore the much more numerous and powerful imperialist Russian extremist right in Russia and Ukraine who seek to reestablish the tsarist Russian empire. [7] Like their Russian media sources foreign pro Kremlin leftists are silent about the Ukrainian national question and Ukrainian anti-colonialist thought. They do not consider the political and economic pressure Putin’s government exercises on Ukraine that radicalizes Ukrainian liberal nationalism. They do not post analysis of Russian colonialism, Russian imperialism, Eurasianism, Russian militarism, or the linguistic/cultural russification of non Russians outside Russia’s borders. They carry no critiques of Putin or his aides and advisors like Dugin Surkov and Glazev — the counterparts to the American neo-conservatives Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Neither official Russian media nor foreign pro Kremlin leftists scrutinize Putin’s ties to and sponsorship of pro- Russian EU neo Nazi’s and Russian neo Nazi groups in Ukraine. [8]

Sometimes authors cite individual Russians who share their preconceptions as sources to confirm their opinions. One such source is Boris Kargalitsky, a leftist who moved right to join Russia’s “red brown coalition.” Kargalitsky has a Russocentric perspective on the former Soviet ruled space, calls for the reincorporation of and domination of Russia within that space, and travels the EU addressing pro Russian extremist right and extremist left groups. Sympathizers translate his articles, that contain some decidedly imaginative twists, for posting on foreign pro Kremlin sites.

In his opinion the Russian ruling class is part of the global capitalist system and dominates Ukraine. Kargalitsky imagines that the imperialist Russian neo nazi groups in Crimea and eastern Ukraine represent a mass proletarian revolution that will spark his desired re-establishment of a Russian dominated USSR. Within this context he explains that Putin does have an interest in a weak small poor Ukraine over which Russian domination could be extended, but, he does not send troops into Ukraine to secure the existence of the “workers revolution” in the self-proclaimed Russian “republics” there because he does not want that revolution to spread to Russia and overthrow him. The capitalist desire for business and profits as usual, meanwhile, will ensure that foreign sanctions will not appreciably effect the Russian ruling class.

Kargalitsky’s pro Kremlin audience finds his worker revolution scenario appealing. But given their preconceptions, ignorance of Russian and Ukrainian, and minimal knowledge about either country, they either cannot, or choose not to, know what he omits from his articles. For example, he makes no mention of Russian imperialism, great power chauvinism, non Russian national movements, linguistic and cultural russification of non Russians, or the link between the national and the social questions. He does not dwell on how his imagined “working class” movement was aided and funded in its origins by Ukraine’s pro Russian capitalists (oligarchs); in particular, Rinat Akhmetov, nor that the local Russian extremist leaders are not interested in nationalization – least of all Akhmetov’s holdings. He does not mention either the small size of the neo-Nazi section of the Ukrainian right nor how few Ukrainian citizens support the Russian neo nazi right. [9] For all their Marxist rhetoric neither Kargalitsky or his likeminded reflect on why the Russian neo nazi leaders of Ukraine’s imagined proletarian revolution do not associate themselves with Marxism of any kind, why they sport double headed eagles and tsarist colours, rather than hammers and sickles and red banners, why they use Orthodox symbolism, or, why they wax nostalgic over the tsarist empire rather than the short-lived Russian Bolshevik Krivoi-Rog Republic of 1918.

Another local professed Marxist pundit reproduced and cited by foreign pro Kremlin leftists is Vladimir Ishchenko. In June 2014 he signed a declaration about events in Ukraine with 29 others that recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics without mentioning or condemning as imperialist the Russian neo Nazi groups that proclaimed them. Using old soviet terminology the declaration juxtaposes Ukrainian “nationalism” to “anti-fascism,” does not mention Russian imperialism and, does not consider Ukrainian nationalism progressive in so far as it is anti imperialist. The signatories call for an “informational and organizational consolidation of the left groups in the former Soviet space” rather than in Europe and the EU. [10]

Before 1991 foreign leftists who supported the USSR and condemned anti Russian Ukrainian national liberation could be dismissed as naïve dupes or idealists. However, they did have some Marxist credibility. In so far as they defined socialism in terms of one party rule, state ownership and, the Kremlin was ruled by a communist party, their defense of what they deemed to be communism derived logically from their definition of socialism. Today, the USSR no longer exists and Russia is a capitalist state whose leaders have imperialist claims on former subject peoples. Nonetheless, there are still foreign leftists today who support these leaders, whose guiding principle in foreign policy can hardly be considered socialist even in theory, and, is not unlike Hitler’s. That is, Putin is prepared to “defend co-countrymen [sootechestvennik],” meaning Russians very broadly defined, beyond Russian borders by force is necessary whether or not they want defending -- much like Hitler sought to “defend” Germans outside Germany in the 1930s.

Russian media and pro Kremlin radicals both condemn Ukrainian independence and its new capitalist government, but not Putin’s capitalist government, as a “fascist junta.” Leftists unable to deny Putin’s government is capitalist, remain silent on it and tacitly assign it a “progressive” role in as much as it is anti-American and uses some oil and gas revenues to finance social programs. Neither Russian media nor pro Kremlin leftists treat Russia’s neo liberal capitalist government as imperialist.

In conclusion, it should be noted that there are radical leftists critical of Putin’s government. Proceeding from anti-imperialist rather than anti-Americanist premises, these persons might be characterized as sympathetically neutral towards Ukrainian national interests and the Maidan movement. Unlike their anti- Americanist pro Kremlin opposites they share Trotsky’s characterization of Ukraine’s fate within the USSR and have some understanding of why Ukrainians after 1929, unlike populations throughout Asia, Africa, and western Europe, stopped associating communism with national liberation. [11]

These groups place themselves in the tradition of the Ukrainian pre-Stalinist radical left (the Borotbists and the Ukrainian Communist Party, not to be confused the Stalinist Communist Party of Ukraine – a Russian party in Ukraine, and not a Ukrainian party). Like them they regard Russia as an imperialist power. [12] Unlike the UCP and Borotbists, they do not regard Russians in Ukraine as settler colonists. Thus, absent from their writings today are comparisons with French settlement in Algeria or Protestant settlement in Ireland where unassimilated imperial loyalist colonist communities served as the social base for the extremist rightwing OAS and UDA and UDF, much like today Russian settlement in Ukraine provides a base for Russian neo Nazis. [13]

"The Fourth International," "Ukrainesocialistsolidarity," "," "," "," "Revolutionary Communist International Tendency," "" and "Socialist Worker" share anti-imperialist positions. They contain articles condemning not only the Ukrainian right, which they consider too influential in the new government but, also Putin, and the armed Russian neo Nazis. This is also the position of the Party of the European Left. These foreign leftists are critical of the new government as neo liberal capitalist, call for peace and the right of Ukrainians to determine their political future for themselves independent of either US or Russian imperialism.

While radical leftist parties have increased seats in the EU parliament, their influence will depend on how intensely European bankers and corporation owners and managers persist in imposing their neo liberal capitalist agenda on an increasingly angry and impoverished population. As far as concerns general opinion about Russia pro Kremlin radical leftists seem to have little if any influence. A PEW survey of world public opinion on Russia between July 2013 and 2014 shows that the number of those with favourable views of Russia declined substantially in every country surveyed except China. [14] Regardless of whether or not pro Kremlin leftists are more or less influential than ostensibly liberal pundits and activists, like the Americans Stephen Cohen and Thomas Hartmann, collectively they ensure that more people are exposed to the Kremlin anti-Ukrainian viewpoints outside Russia than would be without them. [15]

RUSSIAN TRANSLATION: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ NOTES

1. This document, “Save Ukraine,” was released by the supposedly non governmental right-wing Izborsk Club whose founders include Putin associates Leonid Ivashov (former head of the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Defense), Sergei Glazyev, Alexander Prokhanov and Alexander Nagorny. English translation:

2.,20867,lurid-antiukraine-propaganda-russ... ;



5. sometimes posts views of anti imperialist leftists critical of the Kremlin. .


7. As of 2011 there were at least 17 Kremlin sponsored anti Ukrainian Russian fascist and neo nazi organizations in Ukraine. A list compiled by Sergei Bilokin (Kyiv) in 2014 lists 53 Russian fascist and neo nazi parties, some of which have filial branches in Ukraine. How many of these are funded by the Kremlin is unknown. To this total should be added at least 4 organizations that are not Ukrainian parties but merely Russian parties in Ukraine : the Communist Party of Ukraine, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, Borotba and Liva Sprava. FASCIST: 1. Российский общенародный союз — РОС 2. Национально-Демократическая Партия — НДП 3. Новая Сила 4. ЭО Русские 5. Великая Россия — ВР 6. Национал-демократический альянс — НДА 7. Народный собор — НС 8. Русское Имперское Движение — РИД 9. НСР(Национальный Союз России) 10. Собор русского народа — СРН 11. Русское общественное движение — РОД 12. Национальное русское освободительное движение — НРОД 13. Партия защиты российской Конституции «Русь» — ПЗРК «Русь» 14. Национал-патриоты России — НПР 15. Национал-демократическое движение «Русский Гражданский Союз» — НДД РГС 16. Нация Свободы — НС 17. Русское Национал-патриотическое движение 18. Сопротивление 19. Национальная Социалистическая Инициатива — НСИ 20. Конгресс русских общин 21. Реструкт 22. ОД "РАССВЕТ"(Общественное Движение "РАССВЕТ") 23. Национальная организация русских мусульман

NEO NAZI: 1. Народное ополчение имени Минина и Пожарского — НОМП 2. Другая Россия 3. Русский Фронт Освобождения «Память» — РФО «Память» 4. ООПД «Русское национальное единство» — „Гвардия Баркашова“ 5. ВОПД «Русское национальное единство» — ВОПД РНЕ 6. Движение «Александр Баркашов» 7. Национально-державная партия России — НДПР 8. Народная национальная партия — ННП 9. Истинное русское национальное единство — ИРНЕ 10. Балтийский Авангард Русского Сопротивления — БАРС 11. Русский объединённый национальный альянс (РОНА) 12. Гвардия Христа 13. Национальный союз — НС 14. Союз православных хоругвеносцев— СПХ 15. Союз русского народа — СРН 16. Северное братство — СБ 17. Чёрная Сотня 18. Движение Парабеллум 19. Национал-социалистическая партия Руси — НСПР 20. Партия Свободы — ПС 21. Русский Образ 22. Национал-синдикалистское наступление — НСН

BANNED: 1. Движение против нелегальной иммиграции — ДПНИ 2. Национал-социалистическое общество — НСО 3. Национал-большевистская партия — НБП 4. Славянский союз — СС 5. Фронт национал-революционного действия (ФНРД) 6. Русский общенациональный союз — РОНС 7. Лига обороны Москвы 8. Формат 18.

8. The Kremlin’s Anti Extremist Law is worded to allow officials to determine what is “extremist” and thus ensure that law is not applied to groups it sponsors secretly or otherwise like Rodina and Nashi. One wonders whether there are two intelligence directorates dealing with extremists. One that represses them and another that sponsors them. On Kremlin sponsorship of Russian neo nazi groups

9. Polls taken in early 2014 show that had presidential elections occurred then, no more than 15% would have voted for clearly neo soviet politically Russophile candidates. 12% supported full integration with Russia. In the most heavily colonized and Russified provinces where most of the population follow Russian rather than Ukrainian media, 24 percent in Luhansk and Odessa, 33 percent in Donetsk, and 41 percent in Crimea, supported political union with Russia.;cat=reports&id=236&page=1 Despite high pro Russian sentiment in Crimea according to Serhiy Kunitsyn Crimean prime minister for six years: “The only thing that forced Crimean elite to support Moscow was the presence of 20,000 Russian troops.”

10. Leftists sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause issued a counter-declaration specifically identifying Russian imperialism and Russian neo Nazis as threats. It was ignored by the foreign pro Russian group.!THE-SLOGAN-OF-THE-MOMENT-PROTECTING...

11. See also:

12. See also. S. Velychenko, “Ukrainian Marxists and Russian Imperialism 1918-1923: Prelude to the Present in Eastern Europe’s Ireland,” Irish Left Review (2014) ; “Ukrainian Anti-Colonialist Thought in Comparative Perspective. A Preliminary Overview,” Ab Imperio no. 4 (2012); “The Issue of Russian Colonialism in Ukrainian Thought,” Ab Imperio no. 1 (2002) 323- 66.

13. Events have shown that only a minority of Russians descended from settler colonists are politically pro Russian today. Not enough supported the Russian neo Nazi loyalist equivalents of the OAS and UDA to give them control over Odessa Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. In these provinces, unlike in the Crimea, there were no stationed Russian troops. Like most other settler-colonist based extremists, Ukraine’s Russian groups are divided between the empire loyalists who seek incorporation into Russia and the “creoles” who want independent republics.


15. The following are non-left wing anonymous pro Russian sites: the Orwellian named I"nternational Observatory of Ukrainian Conflict," "," "" and "" The anonymous "Human Rights" and the "Ukrainian Human," must not be confused with the legitimate "Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union" and " Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group." The Paris based ostensibly liberal "Institut de la Democratie et de la Cooperation" is Russian funded. There is no evidence that pro Kremlin sites "" or "" are Kremlin funded. Founder of the latter, Thierry Meyssan, is someone whose concern about French and Ukrainian right-wing extremists does not extend to Russian neo Nazis. He is associated with the official Kremlin journal "Odnako."