Call for collaborators

16 03 2022

UKR-TAZ compiles materials helpful for understanding Ukraine, with an emphasis on radical democratic (left-libertarian) perspectives. (See here for more.) That makes it an unusual if not rare space on the English-language internet.

To do this well, especially at a time like this, requires help. We are not calling for donations — if you can provide any, please donate to the organizations listed here. Rather, we seek collaborators, who would be willing to collect articles and/or media to be shared here, and potentially contribute original work of an appropriately analytical (or inspirational) nature. If you are interested, please write to the editor, including the words “UKR-TAZ” in your Subject line. Thanks.





Statement on Russian invasion

1 03 2022

UKR-TAZ stands in solidarity with the citizens of Ukraine, who are fighting for their right to live in a sovereign and democratic nation. It condemns the Russian invasion as a morally abhorrent act, and joins with all of those who are committed to ending this violation of civil norms and international law.

For a list of things you can do to support Ukraine and Ukrainians at this time, please see SUPPORT UKRAINE.





Reconstruction of Ukraine

3 09 2022

While the war continues, it may seem premature to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine, but that is precisely what several of Ukraine’s leading cultural institutions feel is needed. It will be the topic of an online symposium entitled “The Reconstruction of Ukraine: Ruination / Representation / Solidarity. A Symposium of Ideas and Strategies,” to take place this week on September 9 through 11:

Over 40 expert Ukrainian and international speakers – architects, artists, historians, economists, poets and others – will gather this September to discuss Ukraine’s past, present and future in light of Russia’s ongoing invasion. The overall theme of the conversation will be reconstruction: broadly-conceived to refer to the rebuilding of architecture and infrastructure, but also of institutions, social bonds, individual and collective bodies and minds.

The symposium is organized by a network of institutions, including the Центр міської історії / Center for Urban History, Urban Forms Center, Kyiv Biennial / VCRC, ReStart Ukraine, UCL, and Yale University.

The symposium will take place virtually over the course of three days from September 9−11. The official website for the symposium, along with more information about the event, can be found here: https://reconstruct.in.ua/. To register, please follow this link. Accompanying links to the symposium’s Instagram and Telegram channels can be found here. 

The round table discussions held over each of the three days will range from housing, preservation, masterplanning, the political and economic challenges of reconstruction, the impact of gendered and sexual violence, remediation of the country’s psychological trauma, among many other subjects. 

You can register for it here.

Возможно, это изображение текст «The Reconstruction of Ukraine Ruination Representation Solidarity A Symposium of Ideas and Strategies 9, 10, 11 September 2022 (online) Center for Urban History, Lviv, Center for Urban Studies, Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture; Re-Start Ukraine; University College London; Urban Forms Center, Kharkiv; Yale University, New Haven; Visual Culture Research Center, Kyiv. www.reconstruct.in.ua»




The media war

1 09 2022

WNYC’s On the Media stands out among media-analysis podcasts. Its latest program, “Russia’s War,” focuses entirely on Russia and the war in Ukraine, and it is excellent.

All three segments — on the crackdown on Russian independent media, “info ops” (information warfare), and one person’s (journalist Anastasiia Carrier’s) experience unlearning Kremlin narratives — are well worth listening to. The latter sounds a lot like the kinds of things people go through when they leave “cults” (religious or political), so there are even lessons here for how to deal with family members you may have lost to QAnon, MAGAworld, and their cousins in other countries.

The full 52-minute podcast can be heard here.

Meanwhile, they have just added an additional 15-minute segment on Ukrainian media called “Big Tech vs. Ukraine’s Local Media,” which examines how Facebook/Meta and Google/Alphabet (including YouTube) have, contrary to popular belief, been supporting Russian state media at the expense of independent Ukrainian media.

(You can support independent Ukrainian media by following, and donating to, Kyiv Independent, Ukrainska Pravda, and Hromadske, among other sources.)





Dale: a Leninist defense of Ukraine

19 08 2022

In “Lenin, Ukraine, and the Amnesia of the ‘Anti-War Left‘,” Tom Dale provides an incisive analysis of the contemporary Left’s failure to substantively analyze the war in Ukraine. Writing in the independent socialist magazine New Politics, Dale writes:

The left lacks a unified theory of geopolitics, capitalism, war, and movement strategy to act as a reference point for its internal discussion. It lacks even a range of contending, explicitly articulated theoretical perspectives drawn from within its own ranks, and consistent with its broader world view, that clearly describe the lines of debate.

What it has instead is a mess of half-examined folk-theories, sentiments, and habits of argument. These have been drawn impressionistically from recent history, borrowed selectively from philosophically incompatible traditions—such as realism—or half-excavated from the bedrock of the left’s own past.

The article draws in depth on Vladimir Lenin’s own writings and positions to show that the founding father of the Soviet Union, for all his contradictions, had a much more nuanced understanding of war than today’s “anti-war left” has shown itself capable of. In his conclusion, Dale argues that the war in Ukraine

pits a flawed democracy against a personal autocracy; a social system with the potential for evolution against one hard-cased by a police state; and national self-determination against colonial annexation and cultural annihilation. Whatever one thinks, strategically, of Ukraine’s manner of handling its relations with the West and Russia, these are the matters at stake, and the primary ground on which the question of military support should be decided.

The full article can be read here.





Radynski: deconstructing Russia

9 08 2022

I find Kinga Dunin’s conversation with Ukrainian filmmaker and intellectual Oleksiy Radynski refreshing — not because Radynski is a nuanced, scholarly thinker, but because he is a creative, provocative, connective thinker, more Deleuzian in spirit than anything else, which is a missing element from so much thinking on the present Russo-Ukrainian crisis.

Scholars, for instance, will debate whether and how democracy functions in Ukraine (Mikhai Minakov’s and Matthew Rojansky’s 2018 piece was good on that, and here’s one attempt to update that), and whether and how Putinism fits the label of fascism (Cain Burdeau’s recent overview of those arguments is helpful). Radynski simply uses the terms to think with and beyond them.

On democracy, here’s an exchange between Dunin and Radynski:

KD: It’s turned out that the Ukrainian state is quite well organized, efficient, and works surprisingly well despite the war.

OR: This is not the power of the state, but of democracy. February 24 completely changed our vision of what democracy is. It was not the state that organized resistance, but the people who self-organized. Nothing in my life has brought me around more to people’s democracy. I think this is why Russia lost the battle of Kyiv, which one day, with hindsight, may turn out to have been a breakthrough moment in this war. They had a completely vertical and nondemocratic way of managing their military. The commanders of various ranks weren’t allowed to revise their action plans; they were supposed to march ahead, encircle Kyiv, and seize it. Perhaps it’s a weak argument for democracy, but as far as I know the Ukrainian army is fighting democratically, which means it’s in total disarray. It was so especially during the first weeks, when the territorial defense forces were forming and an incredible number of people wanted to join. This story is yet to be written, it was … Makhnovshchyna [referring to Nestor Makhno’s early twentieth century anarchist militia]. A kind of people’s army. There was something Cossack about it.

Radynski describes Russia as fascist in part due to its “blocking” of “the development of culture” (“What they use is some kind of newspeak, a necro-language,” whereas “we,” Ukraine, “are the only country where free speech in Russian exists for the time being”). He replies to Dunin’s question “So Russian culture should not be boycotted?” with the following:

This would be too big a favor to Russian imperial culture. Russian culture deserves a punishment much more severe than a boycott. It deserves a deconstruction. [. . .]

Deconstructing Russian culture means challenging the existing pantheon, now headed by “Tolstoyevski”—Tolstoy, the “good Russian,” and the mad right-winger Dostoevsky. And not by, let’s say, truly radical writers, such as [Nikolai] Leskov. After the deconstruction of this culture, we will also look in a completely different way at Ukrainian literature, for example at such a decolonial revolutionary as Taras Shevchenko.

He also mentions Vladimir Sorokin’s dystopian futurist novel Telluria. Radynski’s future Russia is a “deconstructed” one that has effectively “decolonized” and “disintegrated” into regionalist movements that can no longer constitute the kind of imperial power we see in full force today.

There’s an idealism here that ignores the potential violence of this “disintegration” as well as its impacts on global geopolitics. But it is a kind of “creatively deconstructive” thinking that’s needed to balance out the “realism” of the Mearsheimers, Chomskys (despite the latter’s anarchist ideals), Kissingers, and others who cannot see a future beyond present configurations.

Radynski has shared the following backgrounder on his Facebook page:

e-flux published an interview on the decolonization of Russia that I gave to Kinga Dunin around three months ago. In the meantime, the idea to decolonize Russia kind of skyrocketed. It’s no longer a niche thing: it’s actively debated at international forums, popular magazines and even at panels organised by the State Department. It’s been picked up as a scarecrow by Russian propaganda, which increased its visibility by a multiple.

But we have to be careful with the popularity of this idea in the West. The Russian Federation should be decolonized (read: dismantled) as a result of its own internal contradictions, and not as an outcome of external meddling: this would only lead to a stronger fascist reaction in Russia. What we should do is take advantage of those internal contradictions to help the oppressed peoples liberate themselves.

We in Ukraine are best positioned to take this advantage. Our post-colonial situation allows us to understand the Russian system much better than it understands itself. In addition, we know how to use Russian language and are able of freely doing this, while the total majority of people in Russia are not.

Radynski’s conversation with Dunin can be read on e-Flux Notes.





Balibar: on the war’s globalized ‘hybridity’

7 08 2022

It’s rare for a western European left-wing philosopher to be so well informed about Ukraine, and for that alone Etienne Balibar’s article “In the War: Nationalism, Imperialism, Cosmopolitics,” published back in June and translated here on the Spil’ne/Commons web site, deserves reading and sharing.

On the whole I think it is an excellent piece, which analyzes the Russo-Ukrainian war in all its multidimensionality — as a war of independence (for Ukrainians), a continuation of a “long European civil war,” a war that raises important questions about nationalism and neo-imperialism, a globalized and hybrid war involving rival military and economic alliances, and a war that is further “hybridized” by the “environmental catastrophe” that “shifts and subverts all borders in the world, particularly the borders between the habitable and inhabitable regions, and the ‘frontiers’ of exploitable regions at the cost of immense destructions of natural landscapes.”

I have a few minor qualms with the piece. One is that by referring first to the war’s being a “war of independence,” Balibar risks overemphasizing Ukrainians’ agency in causing it. The war is first and foremost a war of attempted colonial (imperial) conquest. That Russian hostility was triggered by the Maidan “revolution” of 2013-14 is not at issue. But that “revolution” did not challenge the boundaries of Ukraine or Russia; Russian incursions (in support of ostensible “separatists”) did. I take this as an oversight of emphasis, since Balibar is well aware that, as he puts it, “We can never forget which armies invaded Ukraine and currently destroy it.”

Read the rest of this entry »




‘De-oligarchization’ & more

30 07 2022

While winning and/or stopping the war in and against Ukraine remains paramount to the interests of most Ukrainians, the government included, the anonymously authored Substack and Telegram channels Events in Ukraine provide insightful, English-language coverage of other things going on both within and affecting the country. These include the role of oligarchs in the war, recent “de-oligarchization” reforms, pro-EU and anti-NATO sentiments among Ukrainians, class contradictions, and the unlikelihood of any sort of Marshall Plan for Ukraine’s post-war future.

From what I can tell, the author is an economically astute leftist with insights into the country’s politics that an outsider is unlikely to have. (He or she currently lives in a neighboring country, but that’s all I’ve seen divulged.) The author’s penchant for republishing translations of articles from the reputedly “pro-Russian” strana.ua site raises questions about their biases (though nowadays “pro-Russian” doesn’t mean the same thing as it did before February, which is why I add the scare quotes). That said, the two sites provide insights that are worth getting despite any question of “balancing” perspectives. I wish their anonymity didn’t muddy the picture.

I found the recent piece on “de-oligarchization” (and its follow-up) particularly interesting; it’s worth reading as a counterpoint to the recent piece on “democratization” that I shared here.





Bilous: It’s about self-determination

27 07 2022

Taras Bilous got sick and took a few days off from his work with the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine, and wrote two articles. Here’s one of them, published in Jacobin, entitled “I’m a Ukrainian Socialist. Here’s why I Resist the Russian Invasion.”

The decision to oppose the Russian occupation was not made by Joe Biden, nor by Zelensky, but by the Ukrainian people, who rose en masse in the first days of the invasion and lined up for weapons. [. . .]

Instead of seeing the world as being composed solely of geopolitical camps, socialist internationalists must evaluate every conflict based on the interests of working people and their struggle for freedom and equality. [. . .]

The world will become even more unjust and dangerous if non-Western imperialist predators take advantage of American decline to normalize their aggressive policies. Ukraine and Syria are examples of what a “multipolar world” will be like if the appetites of non-Western imperialisms are not reduced.





Feminist Initiative: Right to Resist

20 07 2022

The Feminist Initiative Group’s “Right to Resist” Manifesto takes issue with the Feminist Resistance Against War manifesto, arguing that the latter denies Ukrainian women the right to resist.

We, feminists from Ukraine, call on feminists around the world to stand in solidarity with the resistance movement of the Ukrainian people against the predatory, imperialist war unleashed by the Russian Federation. War narratives often portray women* as victims. However, in reality, women* also play a key role in resistance movements, both at the frontline and on the home front: from Algeria to Vietnam, from Syria to Palestine, from Kurdistan to Ukraine.

Its signatories, numbering in the hundreds, call “for an informed assessment of a specific situation instead of abstract geopolitical analysis which ignores the historical, social and political context,” and argue that “Russian aggression undermines the achievements of Ukrainian feminists in the struggle against political and social oppression.”

It’s worth noting that the Feminist Resistance Against War, which was published on March 17, has been signed by 151 signatories as of today. Not a single one of them is based in Ukraine. In contrast, the “Right to Resist” manifesto, as of July 20, is signed by 629 people and 56 organizations, of which at least a few hundred appear to be Ukrainian (judging by names or affiliations).  

The entire manifesto can be read on Spil’ne/Commons.





Dutchak: 10 frustrations

20 07 2022

The excellent Ukrainian left journal Spil’ne/Commons has shared Oksana Dutchak’s “10 Terrible Leftist Arguments against Ukrainian Resistance.” They perfectly capture a lot of the frustrations I’ve heard expressed by Ukrainian leftist activists and scholars engaging with their western and “internationalist” colleagues.

They are recommended reading for all left-leaning westerners. (There is, of course, no implication that right-wing westerners do any better. In the current situation, that idea would be easy to disprove.)





Terrorism vs. democracy

18 07 2022

To someone unaware of the details, describing the war in Ukraine as a struggle between terrorism and democracy may sound caricaturish. (The same might be the case for scholars, who prefer nuances.) But war, for all the state power machinations that may direct it, takes place in its details — the specific experiences had and the lives disrupted.

Two recent Atlantic articles, one by long-time correspondent Anne Applebaum, the other by co-founder of Ukraine’s Public Interest Journalism Lab Nataliya Gumenyuk, lay out the stakes of this dichotomy.

In “Russia’s War Against Ukraine Has Turned Into Terrorism,” Applebaum defines terrorism as “an intimidation campaign using violence,” and delineates the kinds of goals it seeks to achieve.

Read the rest of this entry »







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