BUAFS banner in Trafalgar Square on May Day 2015
A comrade from Bristol Ukraine Anti Fascist Solidarity (BUAFS) was invited to speak at a recent public meeting in London organised by Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in the Ukraine (SARU). We reproduce his remarks below.
We are talking today specifically about the way that the imperialist media serve a vital propaganda role in selling us their agenda of war and austerity. Other speakers have given many telling examples of this manipulation of public opinion.
In Bristol, we try to expose this manipulation by mounting a weekly picket of the BBC in Whiteladies Road. We do this to draw attention to the lies the corporation tells about the conflict in the Ukraine and Donbass, and to point out how this conflicts with the vaunted status of the BBC as a paragon of ‘objective’ and ‘balanced’ journalism. It lays claim to that status, so it’s right that we should demand that it be held to account for failing to live up to it.
However, in reality, we should not be so surprised about the BBC’s behaviour. Its journalists are just doing their job, serving as part of the propaganda machine for the imperialist ruling class. When push comes to shove, that is the basic purpose of every organ of mass media in imperialist society. How could it be other? The capitalist media are bought and paid for, and capitalism gets what it pays for. In that sense, we have nothing to complain about.
But if the real function of the BBC and the rest is not too hard to grasp, what have we to say about the role of some of those in ‘left’, ‘anti-war’ and trade-union circles who help to grease the wheels for war by going along with the reactionary propaganda? I’m thinking about those who in words ‘opposed’ the bombing of Libya, yet rowed in with all the vilification of Muammar Gaddafi by which imperialism sought to justify that bombing.
Or those who went along with the hate campaign against Bashar al-Assad and the progressive leadership of Syria – a hate campaign that acted as a smokescreen for the West’s proxy war of subversion against
an independent Arab state whose secular and progressive character posed a threat to imperialist dominance in the Middle East.
What do we make of those who peer down from a great height upon the inhabitants of the Donbass fighting for their lives against Kiev’s stormtroopers, only to pronounce them to be ‘Putin’s useful idiots’?
In my innocence, I had hoped to come here tonight in a cloud of glory, bearing glad tidings that Bristol Trades Council had decided to cough up £50 and affiliate to SARU. The Bristol branch of Community Unite earlier this year passed a resolution to affiliate, and went on to propose to the trades council that it follow suit.
Sadly, this initiative was ambushed by some very vocal delegates to the trades council, who ‘explained’ that the fascist coup that removed the democratically-elected Yanukovych government was in fact a “popular uprising”, that the subsequent elevation of Poroshenko to the presidency was “legitimate”, that his government was not fascist, that the Donbass resistance were no more than stooges for Putin and that the conflict in the Ukraine was not about anti-fascist resistance but was essentially a turf war between rival oligarchs.
To make this unashamed rehearsal of the standard BBC/Fox News Big Lie more palatable to a trade-union forum, matters were given a workerist twist, appealing for “solidarity with workers throughout the whole of the Ukraine”, carefully ignoring the fact that the fascist aggression dished out by the Kiev junta’s forces is actually the military wing of the IMF-imposed austerity being imposed on all Ukrainian workers.
This stunt recalls the dishonest ‘neither green nor orange’ pose that was assumed in the 1970s and 80s by those who sought to justify their enmity towards the Irish national struggle by making spurious appeals to the “unity of all workers” (all workers, that is, in ‘Northern Ireland’ – ie, the colonised six counties).
Regrettably, these lies about what is really going on in the Ukraine were enough to stampede the trades council away from supporting the resolution, which was formally remitted (kicked into the long grass). Fifty pounds here or there will not break our campaign, but this setback usefully illustrates just how crucial is the role of social democracy in making workers vulnerable to capitalist war propaganda, softening up our resistance.
It is important to challenge the media lies. But it is at least as important to challenge those on the social-democratic ‘left’ who help to give those lies currency in the working class. We can’t get rid of media lies, but we can make a start on challenging the social-democratic politics that rob workers of any ideological defence against those lies.
When the manufactured paranoia about Russia has been so eagerly embraced by many on the ‘left’, for example, it will take no more than one or two well-orchestrated false-flag operations for war fever to sweep the board.
What is the antidote to this war fever? The short answer is: to build an anti-war movement in the working class; a movement that identifies imperialist crisis as the driver of war, which supports all those engaged in resistance against imperialism and which leads a campaign of active non-cooperation with the war effort.
Do we possess such a movement now? Sadly not. The Stop the War Coalition, in the name of ‘broadening the appeal’ of the movement, withheld its support from the Afghan resistance and the Iraqi resistance. It likewise withheld support from the progressive governments of Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria. Now it opposes the Russian bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
And, of course, it withholds support from the Donbass resistance – always in the name of ‘broadening the movement’. Yet, far from ‘broadening’ the anti-war movement into the mass of the working class, this approach has narrowed the movement to a dwindling support base consisting mostly of a pacifist-minded middle class.
Our task must be to break down the social-democratic walls that separate workers in Britain from all their oppressed brothers and sisters who are fighting against imperialism – be it in Palestine, Syria, the Donbass or wherever.
The imperialist ruling class that plunges one country after another into war is the self-same imperialist ruling class that imposes austerity at home. By recognising that imperialism is our common enemy and linking arms with those engaged in resistance against imperialist meddling, we can unite in an anti-war movement that stands on solid anti-imperialist foundations.
I believe that this can be done in Britain, and that our support for the struggles of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk could be a step in the right direction.
It is in that spirit that we continue our solidarity work in Bristol. Let me take this opportunity to invite comrades to come and visit our picket outside the BBC in Whiteladies Road, every Monday from 5.00pm to 6.30pm.
Also, let me remind you about the public meeting we are holding on Saturday 24 October in the Terrace Room of Barton Hill Community Settlement, 43 Ducie Road, Bristol (BS5 0AX), from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, on the subject of imperialist crisis and the drive to war in Europe.
Captured Nazi standards are thrown down at the foot of Lenin's mausoleum by Red Army officers during the victory parade in Red Square, Moscow, 1945
9 May 2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of the defeat of Hitlerite fascism and the liberation of the peoples of Europe –the culmination of a titanic struggle in which the heroic Soviet Red Army, brilliantly commanded and led by JV Stalin, played the main and decisive role.
Twenty-seven million Soviet soldiers and citizens died in the battle to throw off the fascist jackboot – a power that had been brought into being and nurtured by the imperialists of Germany and elsewhere in order to crush the forces for socialist revolution that were rising across the continent.
On this momentous occasion, the CPGB-ML remembers and extends its gratitude to all those heroic men and women who fought against the most dangerous threat to the working classes and oppressed peoples of the world.
As communists, we celebrate the actions of Marxist revolutionaries and national-liberation fighters from Germany to north Africa, who led the underground resistance against the forces of reaction. Above all, we salute the courage of the Red Army – without whom the liberation of Europe would have been unthinkable.
As members of the British working class, we remember with pride our forbears, who travelled to far-off lands to fight the fascist ascendancy – starting with volunteers in the International Brigades who fought so bravely in Spain – and those who, at home, blocked at every turn the attempts by elements of our domestic ruling class to form a mass fascist organisation in Britain – at the Battle of Cable Street and elsewhere.
We also remember with pride and gratitude the earth-shaking contribution of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese popular forces, who made such great sacrifices in the battle to defeat Japanese imperialism and fascism in the East. The Chinese progressive forces lost between 20 and 25 million people in that epic struggle, and yet their contribution is hardly ever mentioned in our euro-centric narratives.
Yet, despite the decisive, unquestionable defeat of fascism in Europe and Asia in the 20th century, we must still temper our celebrations of this momentous occasion with a note of warning. While fascism in its most traditional and recognisable form might presently appear to be a marginal force in world politics, the capitalist economic crisis is creating once more the conditions for its reappearance.
And, as the imperialist powers attempt to drive east and conquer the former territories of the Soviet Union, we are seeing once again the utilisation of reactionary street forces, as well as the ideological rehabilitation of former fascist movements, along with the rewriting of history to deny both the brutality of fascism and the progressive nature of the communist and liberation forces that fought against and destroyed it.
The new drive to war against Russia and China
As the peoples of the former Soviet Union gather today to remember the tremendous sacrifices made by their forbears, it is important for us to recognise that the next war that the imperialists are planning will be aimed at just those peoples who saved us from the fascist jackboot last time around.
In their bid to save their dying and crisis-ridden system, the imperialists have identified two major obstacles to their domination of the world – anti-imperialist Russia and socialist China.
The martial rhetoric, military threats and economic warfare against both these countries is continuously emanating from the centres of imperialism, particularly from the US and Britain, and is constantly escalating in brinkmanship and hysteria. Make no mistake: we are being prepared by this avalanche of propaganda to hate these enemies of our rulers in order that we will fight in wars against them at some point in the future – or so that we will at the very least not act in any meaningful way to stop such wars taking place.
In their bid to create the conditions for a new war in Europe, our rulers are resuscitating (funding, arming, training and promoting in a myriad ways) the very forces that they pretend to abhor – the various Nazi-aligned fascist forces of eastern Europe that were vanquished by the Red Army and the popular resistance forces 70 years ago.
Moreover, in a bid to deny the pivotal role played by the communist-led forces of the Soviet Union – and to deny present-day Russians and others their share of the reflected glory – imperialism’s journalists and historians have been busy rewriting the history of WW2. So successful have they been in filling western media with such lies that the majority of respondents in a recent survey believed that the war had in fact been won by the USA!
Nothing more perfectly illustrates this phenomenon than the fact that no major newspaper raised a murmur at the exclusion of President Vladimir Putin of Russia from the 70th anniversary commemorations at the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. Gone was any reference to the fact that the camp was liberated by the Red Army, and instead we were greeted with fables about a ‘Ukrainian regiment’.
But the only ‘Ukrainian regiments’ that were put together in the war (as opposed to those Red Army regiments that happened to contain Ukrainians) were the militias of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian fascist leader, who put his anti-communist death squads at the disposal of the Nazi occupiers.
Today, hand in hand with the resuscitation of such evil men as ‘national heroes’ in the imperialist-controlled media and throughout those former Soviet territories where the imperialists are trying to gain control, has come the demonisation and even criminalisation of communist organisations and ideas.
Once again, we are living in exceedingly dangerous times, as the latest and worst-ever economic crisis of capitalism is leading our imperialist rulers to ever-more desperate measures to maintain profitability and to contain the people’s anger against poverty, privatisation and war.
Fascism and imperialism: a partnership born out of crisis
By ‘fascism’ we do not simply mean political movements that have ultra-reactionary policies or beliefs. There have been many attempts by bourgeois scholars to define fascism by certain approaches to race, nationalism, corporatism and civil rights – all of which have failed to give even a minimal working definition of fascism in a scientific sense.
This is partly due to the ideological promiscuity, eclecticism and cynical duplicity of the fascist movements in the twentieth century, which, despite their fundamental alignment, were forced to abandon their only real international conference (held in 1934 in Montreux) due to a lack of consensus on all but one issue.
In fact, the parties in attendance were unable to construct any shared policies on economics, race, national integration, women’s suffrage or labour laws. There was one thing on which they were all agreed, however – their opposition to communism and to the communist Third International.
And this is no accident. As Marxists, we understand that we need to look beyond what the fascists say about themselves and find a definition that explains objectively what are the conditions that give rise to fascism and what is the objective role that it plays – what class is serves and how it does so.
The revolutionary anti-fascist and General Secretary of the Communist International Georgi Dimitrov put it very well when he said that fascism is “the power of finance capital itself. It is the organisation of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. In foreign policy, fascism is jingoism in its most brutal form, fomenting bestial hatred of other nations.” (The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism, 1935)
Fascism is the response of the ruling class to the revolutionary upsurge in the working-class movement that is brought about by economic crisis. It is the naked dictatorship to which the bourgeoisie resorts when its ‘democratic’ veneer can no longer hold the people’s anger in check.
Only this definition can account for the shared international, and divergent national, policies of 20th-century fascism, and for its development out of the inter-imperialist crisis following the first world war.
Ukraine: the hydra of modern fascism
For many onlookers, routinely misinformed by the imperialist corporate media, the trajectory between what was portrayed as the Maidan ‘revolution’ in Kiev and the new government’s assaults on the civilians and militants of the Donbass seems very confusing.
It all becomes much clearer, however, once one understands that the ‘government’ now in power is, in fact, the culmination of 25 years of imperialist meddling in Ukraine. In its attempt to divide the peoples and conquer the territory of the former USSR, the imperialists have been happy to create, nurture and resuscitate nationalist and fascist forces of all stripes, providing them with funding and access to the media in order to sow confusion in the minds of impoverished Ukrainians and to encourage them to blame each other for the problems and poverty that the reinstated capitalist system has brought into their lives.
Whatever the precise shape of its previous current and future incarnations, one thing is sure: fascism is dependent on imperialism for its genesis, dependent on imperialism for its development and, ultimately, dependent on the fall of finance capital as a political force for its complete destruction. In the final analysis, there can be no defeat of fascism without a dismantling of the imperialist system and the building of socialism, and we call on all progressives and anti-fascists to join us in this world-historic task.
Once again, we pay our deepest homage and offer a red salute to those millions of brave Soviet soldiers and citizens who fought so heroically and paid so dearly to defeat the greatest army imperialism has yet assembled. Let us learn from their selfless example and join the struggle to end fascism and imperialism for good.
Appeal from the Central Committee of the Communist party of Ukraine
The current government of Ukraine is carrying out a policy to create intolerable conditions for the existence of the Communist Party of Ukraine, as well as pressing towards banning its activity.
We want to inform you that Ukrainian secret service is actively collecting materials about the activity of the Communist Party, falsifying CPU documents, creating activist databases, destroying property and real estate with the help of controlled radicals [ie, spies], banning electioneering work with voters, and organising moral pressure and physical attacks on communist members of the Ukrainian parliament and on heads of regional party committees.
Today it is officially admitted that the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine expects contributions from the secret service and is going to ask the Supreme Court of Ukraine to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine. Top officials of Ukraine are responsible for such activity. Among them are the head of national security and the defence council Andriy Parubiy, the head of the security service Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of parliament and Acting President of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchinov, etc.
This reinforces the harsh treatment of all Ukrainian communists, who are the only political force that has always pursued a policy of defending the interests of ordinary people. The Communist Party of Ukraine now represents a real threat to the current government, given its integrity and unity. The Communist party of Ukraine is one link for millions of people dissatisfied with the actions of the authorities and their allies – the ultra-radical forces.
Putting the question of violence over the objectionable political force, the current government reiterates its anti-people, anti-state and divisive policy that uses double standards – and, under the guise of fighting for ‘European’ values, actually contradicts itself, transforming Ukraine into a country with a fascist dictatorship.
Accusing its opponents of disloyalty and demanding that they renounce their beliefs, the current government of Ukraine are proving that they no longer recognise democracy, freedom of speech, or the supremacy of law.
However, as one can never attain peace by inciting hatred and xenophobia, the current government of Ukraine are provoking social conflict and creating the conditions for a civil war.
We appeal to you, dear comrades, to show solidarity with 120,000 Ukrainian communists, and by a united front to condemn the system’s actions of the Ukrainian authorities to ban the Communist party of Ukraine.
The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, the head of the parliamentary faction of Communists in the Ukrainian Parliament
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November
Former president Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of the Ukraine’s 2004 ‘Orange’ counter-revolution, has been jailed for seven years for exceeding her powers when in office to broker a gas deal with Russia, causing the country an estimated loss of US$200 million. Ukrainian prosecutors are also investigating allegations that she was involved in the contract killing of Yevhen Shcherban, a member of parliament, in 1996, along with Pavlo Lazarenko, who was prime minister at the time and has since been jailed in the United States for fraud and money laundering.
Naturally accusations are flying that Ukraine’s president Yanukovich has trumped up these charges in order to remove a powerful electoral rival from the scene, and Tymoshenko’s conviction has been denounced both by western imperialism and by Russia.
According to the Asia Times Online, “The majority opinion in Ukraine seems to be that the charges against the iconic figure of the ‘Orange’ revolution are probably justified. People know she is a billionaire child of the days of ‘wild capitalism’ in the 1990s when in the debris of the Soviet Union’s collapse and by exploiting the general lawlessness, Ukraine’s newly rich made fortunes out of state property – often enough off Ukraine’s import of Russian natural gas. The apathy of the people toward Tymoshenko’s fate underlines the public awareness that the ‘Orange’ revolution was not a revolution at all, but in reality a game of musical chairs between Ukrainian millionaires and billionaires.” (‘Ukraine scores own goal for Russia’ by M K Bhadrakumar, 13 October 2011)
Clearly the game continues.