Velychenko: Prelude to the present

In “Ukrainian Marxists and Russian Imperialism 1918-1923: Prelude to the Present in Eastern Europe’s Ireland,” historian Stephen Velychenko provides some interesting background to the debate about what happened to the Ukrainian left. The article is long, but worth reading, as it covers an important historical episode in the relations between the Ukrainian left and the Russian left that, Velychenko suggests, is echoed in debates among leftists today.

Velychenko writes:

“Ukrainians were ruled by Russia and experienced the coercive genocidal impulse behind Russian universalist Enlightenment rationalism from the horrors of 1708-12 and the 1820s (Arakcheev’s military colonies), to those of 1919-1949. They accordingly have a tradition of anti-colonialist thought, like all peoples who experienced modernization through domination, that is relevant to today’s events. This should be remembered today, when so many in the European  “democratic” and “anti-Stalinist” left, apparently ignorant of Russia’s colonial rule in Ukraine, condone instead of condemn Putin’s renewed  imperialism and its neo nazi fifth-column in Ukraine. This article reviews the little-known Ukrain­ian anti-colonialist Marxist critique of Russian tsarist and Bolshevik rule up to 1923. It summarizes some of the key ideas of Ukrainian Marxist anti-colonialist thinkers noting that they can be placed alongside men like Amilcar Cabral, Tan Malaka, Frantz Fanon and Aime Cesaire.

“This article draws attention to the fact that although there is a Ukrainian Marxist revolutionary tradition behind the current anti-Russian struggle, there is no influential Ukrainian socialist party to speak of. There only exists the old soviet Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), formed in 1918 as a sub-branch of the Russian Communist Party (RCP). This party was overwhelmingly non-Ukrainian in its ethnic composition until the 1950s and has always stood for Ukrainian subordination to and integration with the former imperial power – Russia. Today, because of its leaders’ opulent lifestyle and generous financial backing from politically pro Russian oligarchs, the CPU is popularly known as the Capitalist Party of Ukraine.  It supports Putin’s imperialism and the Russian Eurasianist neo-nazis.”

The entire article can be read here.


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