Archive for the left

The Nation, sanctions, & following the money

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 25, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

Readers of The Nation and listeners of Democracy Now — two of the leading U.S. venues for left-wing thought — have been subjected to a somewhat incessant drumbeat of views sympathetic to the official Russian side of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As I’ve written here before, both Stephen Cohen and, more recently, his wife (and Nation editor/publisher) Katrina Vanden Heuvel have argued that the entire conflict should be blamed on the West — the U.S., its European and NATO allies, and pro-western and ostensibly right-wing Ukrainians.

In “Putin’s Pal,Slate‘s Cathy Young summarizes the case against Cohen’s (and Vanden Heuvel’s) views, while astutely contextualizing it within Cohen’s history of scholarship and commentary on the Soviet Union and Russia. While some of Cohen’s and Vanden Heuvel’s worries cannot be brushed away — war has its casualties and some of these will be civilians, on both sides or on no side — their narrative of U.S. and Ukrainian responsibility and Russian victimhood is unfair and their assessment of western media coverage also inaccurate.

And there’s little point in casting that conflict as merely a Ukrainian civil war, as Vanden Heuvel does. Any analyst of Russian (and Ukrainian) media ought to see that it is clearly a war — something between a cold war and a hot one — between Russia and Ukraine.

While The Nation itself continues its one-sided coverage, Nation Institute fellow Lee Fang writes, in “How Putin’s American Fixers Keep America’s Sanctions Toothless,” about how US-Russian economic ties create an effective lobby against sanctions, rather like the Israel lobby does the same with US relations with that country and its neighbor, Palestine.

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Levy: Donbass workers divided

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 11, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

In “Workers of Donbass divided by Kremlin-backed violence,” People and Nature editor Gabriel Levy interviews an eastern Ukrainian labor activist and presents a view of a weak and marginalized left in eastern Ukraine.

Stephen Cohen rides again

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 11, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

I am blogging less here these days, and I expect that will continue through the summer (unless some radical change occurs in Ukraine and its relations with Russia).

One thing I shouldn’t let go without mention, however, is Stephen Cohen’s recent article in The Nation, “The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev’s Atrocities.” I’m one of the many Ukraine-watchers who disagree with Cohen’s analyses of Ukraine, who find them overfocused on geopolitics, oversympathetic to Putin and his nationalist/neo-imperialist regime, and almost completely lacking in on-the-ground knowledge of Ukraine itself.

The letters responding to Cohen’s article are worth reading; they can be found here. My own — third from the bottom on that page — is harsher than is my typical style, but as a long-time reader of The Nation, I can’t help feeling betrayed by it on this issue. I’m generally in agreement with the Brookings Institution’s Steven Pifer’s more detailed response.

Other Ukraine scholars tend to be less generous with Cohen (see, for instance, Alexander Motyl’s “Contradictions Define Kremlin Apologists“). But he is influential on the left and his defenses of Putin’s Russia deserve a hearing (however misguided they may be). My disagreement is less with Cohen’s right to speak his mind than it is with The Nation‘s unwillingness to look more deeply into the issues he writes about. Since Cohen is married to the magazine’s editor-in-chief, that may not be surprising; but readers should still press for better from the leading newsweekly on the U.S. left.

Western leftist conspiracy narratives: or, the devil in the details

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 23, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

An article is circulating in the western left that alleges that Ukraine’s new president Poroshenko has been a “mole” for the U.S. State Department since 2006. The article is just one example of the kind of narrative I’ve seen circulating widely in the western anti-American left that overstates the U.S.’s role in Ukrainian affairs. Notably, the writers of these narratives tend to eagerly swallow up the “information” being spread by an authoritarian, right-wing state — Russia — in order to prop up their theories.

Here are some comments in response.

(For the record, plenty of articles circulate that have propaganda value but little factual value. I have previously shared, on this blog, some of those produced by Russian propaganda sources. One that seems to be produced by Ukrainian propaganda sources, or at least that seems to be spreading among anti-Russian bloggers, claims that the recent UN human rights report alleges that Russian security services, or Russian special forces, were behind the Odessa deaths of June 2. The UN report says no such thing.)

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Maidan & the Left: “Libertarian in spirit”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 16, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

In a report on the recent conference “The Left and the Maidan,” held in Kyiv in April, Russian trade unionist Kirill Buketov (of the Global Labour Institute and the International Union of Food and Agricultural Workers) provides a detailed overview of the role of the political left in the Maidan movement.

Buketov argues that while the Maidan cannot be adequately described as either left-wing or right-wing in its political character — according to polls, “93% of the Maidan participants were distant from politics” and only 7% “had a political position and belonged to one political group or another” — in spirit it was “left-wing” and “libertarian.”

“Driven by protest against corruption and tyranny, against humiliation and oppression, by masses of people who felt their dignity had been offended by their rulers’ lies,”

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More views from the left

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 2, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

In “Eastern Ukraine: Popular Uprising, Conspiracy, or Civil War?” leftish cultural-political magazine n+1  presents a very interesting and diverse collection of interviews with left-wing activists in Ukraine and Russia on the events of the last few months.

And Observer Ukraine presents an interview with Left Opposition activist and lawyer Vitaliy Dudin.

An earlier interview with Zakhar Popovych (also included in the n+1 article) has been translated here.

Bojcun: Poroshenko’s sticky wicket

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 27, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

In “The Chocolate King Walks Onto a Sticky Wicket,” left-wing Ukraine analyst Marko Bojcun provides an excellent overview of the prospects facing post-presidential election Ukraine: deteriorating socio-economic conditions, a fragile state, chaos in the eastern provinces, and so on.

The article is well worth reading.




Velychenko: Prelude to the present

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 25, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

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:

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Left Opposition: For an independent socialist Ukraine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 11, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

The short answer to the question “Where is the left in Ukraine today?” is that it’s weak and divided. Weak because 70 years of Soviet rule discredited it for many and 22 years of oligarchy marginalized it. Divided because while many leftists in central and western Ukraine support the interim government, much of the southern and eastern left is ambivalent or fights on either side.

The Ukrainian workers’ movement Left Opposition has tried to steer the divide by calling for a national workers’ movement that would focus on shared economic goals as against the pro-EU orientation of the Maidan and interim government, but also against the pro-Russia positions of the separatists.

In a statement from last week, they discuss how other groups have been drawn into the growing divide — socialist union “Borot’ba” on the pro-Russian side, anarchists and anti-fascists on the pro-Maidan side — and call for unity among Leftists.

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Ishchenko: For nuance

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 15, 2014 by Adrian J Ivakhiv

In “Maidan or anti-Maidan? The Ukraine situation requires more nuance,” sociologist Volodymyr Ishchenko attempts to carve out a progressive socialist position on the Ukraine conflict, one that would “support progressive wings of both Maidan and anti-Maidan, and try to unite them against the Ukrainian ruling class and against all nationalisms and imperialisms on shared demands for social justice.”

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