British group Stop the War Coalition’s (StWC) statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is just another example of its pro-imperialist anti-imperialism. Whereas Lenin saw wars as the continuation of political struggle and derived his stance from a thorough analysis of all sides involved and an independent evaluation of where the interests of the workers’ movement lay in a given conflict, StWC leader Lindsey German merely looks at which side has the backing or involvement of Western governments as if Western imperialism were the only imperialism or if Russian imperialism does not exist. She admonishes people who demand that StWC take the same “hands off” position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that it took regarding a U.S. military strike on Syria:
“Those who demand anti-war activity here in Britain against Russia are ignoring the history and the present reality in Ukraine and Crimea. The B52 liberals only oppose wars when their own rulers do so, and support the ones carried out by our governments. The job of any anti-war movement is to oppose its own government’s role in these wars, and to explain what that government and its allies are up to.”
Thus, anyone who points out the sheer hypocrisy of StWC refusing to organize anti-war rallies at Russian embassies is by definition a B52 liberal who only opposes wars when their own rulers do so, nevermind the fact that most people who opposed a U.S strike on Syria or the invasion of Iraq do not approve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine; that makes them (unlike StWC) consistently pro-peace, not B52 liberals.
The key to what passes for thinking among StWC’s leadership is that last sentence, “the job of any anti-war movement is to oppose its own government’s role in these wars.” This is a recipe for a bizarre ‘left’ British/Western chauvinism in which all conflicts around the globe are really about us and not them, about the West and who it backs among the belligerents and not the actual belligerents or the political content of their struggle. “It’s not you, it’s me” is not only the worst break-up line ever invented, it is also a completely vacuous method of evaluating wars, a method that could only be dreamed up by the brain dead and championed by idiots. Hence why StWC saw the conflict in Mali not as a fight between the government, Islamist extremist militias, and rebel Taureg militias in which French forces played a temporary and subordinate role but as an example of ‘neocolonialism’ and the ‘return of colonialism’ after France sent a few thousand soldiers to back up its beleaguered government. Once it became obvious that France was not turning Mali’s government into a puppet or otherwise colonizing the country, the so-called left in the West blinked and forgot about the whole thing like so many goldfish.
Make no mistake, leftists with the attention span and intellectual bandwidth of goldfish are no threat to any imperialism, East or West.
The politics of Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian Crimea are an extension of the fight within Ukraine over whether the country should orient itself towards Russia or the European Union (EU). Russia suffered a major setback in its fight to retain influence in the country when Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted by huge, militant street demonstrations that only grew more popular as murderous state repression was unleashed upon them. Sensing that Barack Obama has entered the Chamberlain phase of his presidency, Russian imperialism is pursuing a policy of thinly veiled aggression and annexation of the ethnically Russian areas of Ukraine, mirroring Hitler’s policy of annexing German-majority areas in neighboring states before the formal outbreak of World War Two. Russia’s seizure of the Crimea is but the first shot in a longer drawn-out crisis of a reinvigorated Russian imperialism, a provocation aimed at putting Ukraine into permanent political crisis as necessary the precondition for the country’s break-up. If Ukraine responds militarily, Russia will claim “self defense” and carry out its full policy of aggression and if Ukraine does not respond militarily, it will fragment and begin to disintegrate under the weight of Russia’s provocations and territorial seizures.
Supporters of Russian imperialism like StWC cast the Euromaidan demonstrations as fascist and reactionary, as if reactionary forces are never involved on the progressive side of a given fight; conversely, the Western media largely ignored the fascist and proto-fascist elements among the demonstrators in an effort to portray Euromaidan sympathetically. Both failed to examine the crux of the matter, to evaluate the content of the struggle. In the abstract, both Russia and the EU are imperialist powers and Western leftists often do not move beyond the abstract and the general to the concrete, to the historical and lived realities of millions of people in their own countries much less anyone else’s. Historically, Russia has inflicted tremendous oppression upon the Ukraine and the invasion of Russian troops (without Russian insignia) is a sharp reminder of the stark difference between the ‘equally imperialist’ Russia and the EU: the EU does not have armies massed on Ukraine’s border, ready to march in if the people of Ukraine vote the wrong way. Therefore the anti-Russia demonstrations have a national character and yes, they involve fascist and rightist elements because they are the most virulent and reactionary champions of nationalism, but they are not acting alone nor in a vacuum but in concert with a broad-based backlash against the resurgence of the Great Russian oppressor nationalism Lenin spent half of his Collected Works denouncing as the number one threat to proletarian internationalism. That there are reactionary strains within the nationalisms of the oppressed can only surprise or frighten those who waste their lives inhabiting ‘leftist’ bubbles where anti-Semitic Palestinians do not exist and where the Nation of Islam never shows up at a rally against police brutality.
If Lindsey German and the ‘anti-imperialists’ who cry “fascism” are correct in characterizing the Euromaidan movement as fascist, fascist-led, or fascist-dominated, how do they explain the Crimean Muslims who have taken to the streets and joined the movement raising the slogans “God is great” and “Ukraine is not Russia”? How do they explain the defections from the pro-Russia now-former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich’s Regions party after he ordered snipers to shoot unarmed demonstrators in the streets of Kiev? How do they explain the crushing 328-vote parliamentary majority (out of 450) that included pro-Russia elements to oust Yanukovich? How do they explain the 36,000 ethnically Russian Ukrainians who reject Russian President Putin’s Hitler-ist “protection”? How do they explain the anti-war, anti-interventionist protests in Moscow? Is Pussy Riot now ‘pro-fascist’ and ‘pro-Western imperialist’?
StWC’s degeneration into a pawn of Russian imperialism is proof positive that there are — broadly speaking — two types of anti-imperialism: progressive and reactionary, internationalist and chauvinist.
One anti-imperialism’s center of gravity is living, breathing people and their struggles to overthrow oppression and exploitation while the other is narcissistically Western/Israel-centric, dominated by lifeless two-dimensional abstractions and juxtapositions, and obsessed with state-driven realpolitik.
One is not only opposed to all forms and instances of imperialist oppression but actively struggles against them and the other is hypocritical, selective, and sneaks its support for one imperialism inside its loud denunciations of another.
One seeks to unite democratic struggles in Russia, Ukraine, Syria, and all lands against tyrants, fascists, and hangmen while the other seeks to disrupt this unity with lies, slander, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. StWC is the ugliest and nauseating specimen of this latter type, of naked pro-imperialist anti-imperialism that says Western cluster bombs are bad but Russian cluster bombs are good, that Western-backed tyrants are bad but Russian-backed tyrants are good, that Western chemical weapons are bad but Russian-supplied chemical weapons are good, that Western imperialist wars of aggression and occupation are bad but Russian imperialist wars of aggression and occupation are good.
To conclude: one type of anti-imperialism is revolutionary and the other is counter-revolutionary. Between these two there can be no peace nor alliance without betraying internationalism and oppressed peoples the world over.