Will the real Chris Ford please stand-up?

Who is the Scotsman who wraps himself in the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag and runs the renamed Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign after dropping any pretence of being Socialist?

Chris Ford with megaphone draped in Ukrainian flag

Chris Ford appears to be well known amongst left-wing and trade union activists in the UK. Once a member of the Socialist Workers Party, Ford transferred his allegiance at some point to the pro-Imperialist AWL before leaving to form the Commune group, and now runs a very small union which was once affiliated to the IWW but has since split to form his own nationalistically named Independent Workers of Great Britain.

An article on the split with the IWW and the creation of the IWGB states: “We think it is a personal project of Chris Ford (CF). I think CF reckons we are not worthy of him. At a special conference we held in the spring, CF attended and failed to have his submission accepted. He misjudged the meeting. I think he hoped to be met with acclaim, but the dominant current in the membership was anarchist and he failed to allow for it. I think at that point he realised we were not going to adopt his programme.”  Max Watson of the UNISON Branch Secretary described the split as, “The IWGB is either a sectarian personality cult or I’ve been blinded by a one-off bad experience.”

One of the noticeable differences between the logos of the IWW and the IWGB is Ford’s appropriation of what has become known as the anti-fascist symbol of three arrows through a circle, first used by the German SPD’s ‘Iron Front’. The arrows represented what social democracy considers the three evils; Monarchy, Nazism and Communism. Whether Ford is actually an anti-fascist is debatable; that he is an anti-Communist is certain.

IWW-Logo ThreeArrows spd_poster_1932

Reliable information received during the course of researching this article recalls Ford’s role in the PCS union back in 2001 as secretary of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Central and West London branch:

Some years ago he was a civil servant; took part in the strike over safety screens somewhere in West London, got himself sacked for drunken violent behaviour on the picket line. The union defended him, they even had strikes to get him reinstated and then he took a bribe payment and buggered off. Needless to say his PCS supporters were not happy.

For certain they weren’t:

When CHRIS FRAUD was victimised he took his thirty pieces of silver (£50,000 plus at the current rate of exchange) and ran.

The linked article also features a comment from the AWL bewailing their exclusion from a Commune meeting by Ford.

Gerry Downing of Socialist Fight commented about Ford’s political trajectory:

It is indeed strange that Chris Ford became a Ukrainian nationalist. Has anyone got a political explanation how a Scottish Irishman developed into the foremost supporter for right wing Ukrainian nationalism in Britain via the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign? This is my shot at it:

He evolved rightwards from the time he was an SWP member in these stages:

1. From the SWP’s state capitalist half capitulation to imperialism, beginning with their failure to support North Korea and China in the Korean War etc., to
2. The more anti-communist AWL of Matgamna (a later version of the rightward evolution of Shachtman himself from ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ to supporting the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961), to
3. The Commune, a right split from the AWL with David Broder, more explicitly anti-workers organisation, more libertarian and right moving.

This is why the Left labour bureaucracy and others like Socialist Resistance find him useful; he is providing them with an ideological stance they feel they can exploit as it can have resonance in the wider arena of the labour movement and with those who serve as an ideological defence of capitalism in this crisis.

It is also clear that Ford much prefers small groups, preferably ones he runs, which could be an indication of his individualism or perhaps not wanting to be overseen. The groups that Downing mentions, or the rumps of them, are now the supporters of the USC but at some point in Ford’s political evolution, and strangely for a Glaswegian of Irish descent, he became somewhat of an expert on Ukraine and even went as far as learning the Ukrainian language. Whether this was before or after the events documented below is unknown.

The Ukrainian Peace Committee (UPC)

In 1988, after apparently leaving the SWP, Chris Ford was working full-time in the Kensington office of the UPC [“Hawks in Doves Clothing”, The New Worker, 20/5/1988]. The UPC published a quarterly newspaper, Ukrainian Peace News, with the printing done on the presses of the SWP in the east end of London. Ford explained to a reporter from the New Worker that the funding for the paper originated in Canada and that this was where the majority of the papers were distributed.

In fact the funding for the Kensington office, the UPC, and the newspaper all came from America’s Central Intelligence Agency. The UPC was in fact a part of the CIA’s Operation QRPLUMB.

It is now well known and documented that the CIA and other security services not only protected German Nazis, spiriting them out after WWII via Operation Paperclip, but also many Ukrainians who fought alongside Hitler and the Nazis in Poland and Ukraine. One of these high ranking officials and war criminals was to lead the CIA’s Operation QRPLUMB and its predecessors Operations AERODYNAMIC and QRDYNAMIC.

His name was Mykola Lebed, Stepan Bandera’s deputy and, as leader of OUN-B, responsible for the genocidal cleansing of Poles and Jews in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. Not only did the CIA protect him from prosecution, they also gave him funds to run the Prolog Research Corporation which in turn ran the UPC.

CIA files detailing a synopsis of QRPLUMB operations 1946-1987

CIA files detailing a synopsis of QRPLUMB operations 1946-1987

As witnessed in Ukraine today, the US and CIA are more than happy to work alongside known fascists and ultra-nationalists, in fact any forces in the world that will support US Imperialism/NATO and its Capitalist neo-liberal agenda, as long as they are anti-Communist and anti-Socialist. This policy of supporting and promoting nationalism via fascists has long been nurtured and kept alive and kicking in Ukraine as this CIA review of Operation QRPLUMB details:

CIA Review of Operation QRPLUMB

CIA Review of Operation QRPLUMB

Interestingly, the US national, Mark Paslawsky, killed fighting for Kiev against the anti-fascists of the Donbass, was discovered to be a nephew of Mykola Lebed.

Another worker at the Kensington office, Taras Kuzio, was running the CIA funded Ukrainian Press Agency and the UPN’s sister paper Voice of Solidarity, and in 1998 was rewarded with the role of Kyiv Information Officer for NATO. Kuzio tells a distorted and dishonest account of the setting up of the UPC in an academic paper written after the release of the CIA papers. The paper does however throw some light on how ‘anti-Soviet Trotskyists’ and Scottish leftists were utilised:

KUZIO

Despite Kuzio’s retelling of the history of the UPC, just like his UPA, it was set up under Operation QRPLUMB:

QRPLUMB03
The last president of Prolog was U.S. Military officer, Petro Sodol, who received a tidy payout from the agency in 1991. Sodol’s whitewashing of the role of the UPA in fighting alongside the Nazis was a Prolog publication and, during a Facebook discussion on fascism in Ukraine, linked to by Michael Calderbank, one of the USC’s main cheerleaders in the Labour Representation Committee (LRC, the left-wing of the Labour Party):

Calderbank-Facebook

The LRC AGM recently voted to support a motion to affiliate to the USC (this affiliation had actually occurred in May in a bureaucratic manoeuvre by the leadership with no discussion within the membership) via the AWL dominated Noel Park Labour Party branch, despite opposition from Brent & Harrow LRC and other supporters of the Solidarity with Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine Campaign. Opposition which Ford characterises as ‘the majority of the LRC conference rejected the views of supporters of the ultra Stalinist ‘New Communist Party’ and other sectarians’, choosing to ignore, as always, the crucial anti-fascist elements of this opposition. The motion passed ignored the role of the far-right and fascists in Ukraine and the slaughter and destruction being perpetrated against the industrialised working-class of the Donbass, much to the shame of the LRC and the LP.

Ford has time and time again shown his passive approval for fascism and nationalism in various Facebook discussions. One which took place beneath a video of Svoboda deputy, Iryna Farion, infamous for her statement after the Odessa Massacre “Bravo, Odessa. .. Let the demons burn in hell”, telling five-year old kindergarten children that their Russian names were wrong and that they should “pack and go and live in Moscow” before holding up a card showing the ‘correct’ ‘Ukrainian’ version of their ‘wrong’ ‘Russian’ names met not a word of condemnation from Ford:

ChrisFord-Facebook

So, what led Chris Ford to the UPC and what knowledge did he have, if any, of his paymasters and the Banderite fascist and war criminal that was running the show? Whether he was just an unwitting ‘useful idiot’ to his CIA paymasters or not, his participation was obviously of significant political use to the CIA and by association, Mykola Lebed and other Banderite nationalists.

It is exactly this service to US Imperialism that Ford’s current metamorphosis in creating and running the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign (USC not unlike UPC) serves. Ford’s recent and absurd statement that events in Ukraine are a ‘Russo-Ukraine’ war, his demand that Russia pays reparations for the appalling devastation of homes and infrastructure by the Kiev regime, not to mention the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered, his total silence on the fascist massacre in Odessa, in fact his utter silence on the role of Banderite fascists in both the regime and the punitive battalions sent to slaughter the predominately ethnic-Russians of the industrialised working class of the Donbass. All serve the same master, a reactionary Ukrainian Nationalism and US Imperialism in Ukraine.

Ford even uses the same image the CIA employed in Afghanistan against the Soviet troops which shows a mastery in not only language but photoshop, if indeed he created this image himself (Ford deleted a whole Facebook thread when questioned about this similarity). Tellingly he calls on the Russian Army to stop this war rather than the actual aggressors against the Donbass people, the Ukrainian Army, the Pentagon military advisers and oligarch-funded fascist battalions; this is precisely the narrative of US Imperialism which Ford so obligingly and unquestioningly repeats:

CIAAfghanPoster10376837_724910484230741_274594681263870493_n

When fascism was defeated by the Red Army, Ukrainian Nationalists turned to Western Imperialism as their saviour much as the ‘Euromaidan’ and its fascist supporters do now.

Only through workers internationalism, and awareness that in the last analysis Finance Capital will turn once again to its fascists forces in the current period when US$ hegemony is threatened by Russia’s lead in the BRICS development project, will another European war in the interests of the banks be averted. Ukraine will be used as the excuse for this and the ‘useful idiots’ who support the USC will be banging the drum for NATO unless the real Chris Ford finally does stand up.


Article researched, written and submitted to Socialist Fight by Bridget Dunne.

Galloway and Ken rally for Lutfur (and just where was the Mayor on Remembrance Sunday?)

socialistfight:

Rally to the poorest borough in London under such appalling attack for Capital;ism represented by Tory, LibDem, Labour and UKIP leaders.

Originally posted on Trial by Jeory:

During my three years at the East London Advertiser, I spent a fair amount of time with George Galloway’s aides in the Respect party.

I’m fairly confident in saying that had the PwC report been written about the Labour administration in Tower Hamlets back then, they’d have milked it for all its worth.

They were as scathing about the then council leader in 2008, Lutfur Rahman, as they were about his predecessors, Denise Jones and Michael Keith. In particular, they disliked what they believed to be the whiff of cronyism…in both the awarding of grants and also the appointment of useful mates to political positions.

In fact, Respect’s decision to organise successful petition that heralded the directly elected mayoral system in 2009/10 was an attempt to end such a culture, they argued.

So it’ll be interesting to see if Galloway, or Glyn Robbins, the former chair of Tower Hamlets Respect, or John…

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From Poroshenko to Putin – it’s all downhill

socialistfight:

Michael Roberts, excellent, educational and informative as usual:

Originally posted on Michael Roberts Blog:

The temporary truce between Ukraine and Russia seems over, with the news that the Kiev government has launched a new offensive against the separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine, which are backed by the Russians.

This military upsurge has followed quickly after the two elections in Ukraine. The first was in the bulk of the country, where the pro-EU parties won a significant majority in a new parliament in Kiev, dividing the bulk of the vote between the party of President Poroshenko, the chocolate manufacturing oligarch and the neo-liberal party of the current prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The second was in the separatist areas, where the pro-Russian militia groups rule by the gun. This provoked the new action by the Ukraine military and the corresponding mobilisation again across the border by Russian forces.

Ironically, just before this Ukraine and Russia had finally agreed a deal for Ukraine to get its energy supplies for the…

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LGBT liberation, class struggle and the hypocrisy of imperialism By John Barry

LGBTRussia

A pro-LGBT rights “Rainbow flash mob” that took place on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, in Saint Petersburg, 2009

There has been much exposure recently in the western media on the rights of LGBT people in Russia. In fact the whole run up to the Sochi Winter Olympics and the Games itself were mired in controversy around the issue. The focus has been on legislation passed by the Russian Duma which prohibits ‘gay propaganda’, a law which is supposed to protect children from paedophiles but also singles out homosexuals as a corrupting influence. This controversy was one of course created by the western media, who not so many years ago were witch hunting and berating people because of their sexual orientation.

Now of course the liberal West likes to portray itself as the champion of gay rights and human rights in general, against what is presented to their populations as less civilised and tolerant countries. For most people in ‘less civilised’ countries the reality is somewhat different, especially if you happen to get bombed daily by drones in Pakistan, have suffered years of violent occupation in Afghanistan or the north of Ireland. LGBT people are one of the most oppressed groups in society and most countries take a very harsh attitude to those who carry out same sex relations.

Indeed most of the British Commonwealth criminalises homosexuality, recently India made gay sex a criminal offence, yet the Commonwealth Games does not find itself courting the same controversy. Why then does the West focus on LGBT rights in Russia? In Russia gay sex is actually legal unlike most countries including America’s ally Saudi Arabia where homosexuality is punishable by flogging or execution, the last executions for homosexuality were reported in 2002 when three gay men were beheaded.[1]

The focus on this by the West, its enlightened liberal politicians and its host of egocentric celebrities is more to do with the need by US imperialism to cause the de-stabilisation of Russia through NGO’s backed by the CIA and the carving up of Russia to open all its assets and resources to US finance capital.

However it is true that Russian society is deeply conservative and homophobic. Marxists must understand the material reasons which have led to the current deep fear of homosexuality in Russia.

Historically over the past century the current level of homophobia in Russia is fairly new. Indeed after the great October Socialist Revolution the Bolshevik workers’ government decriminalised homosexuality, abortion and introduced no-fault divorce.[2] An open and rational view was taken toward homosexuality by the new Soviet government; the Bolsheviks also understood that the construction of socialism required the end of the oppressive bourgeois family.

Progressive organisations such as the World League of Sexual Reform looked toward the Soviet Union as a model for sexual reform and Soviet delegates were sent to several international conferences in the 1920s regarding sexology.[3] During that decade a young Bolshevik, Gregorii Batkis, in his graduate studies at the Moscow university wrote a pamphlet which was translated to German The Sexual Revolution in Russia, in which he stated homosexuality was treated in the Soviet union in the same way as so-called natural intercourse .[4]

There was of course prejudice remaining from the past, the Orthodox Church still held huge power over the minds of many Russian peasants and those former members of the petty bourgeoisie, judges and criminologists showed antipathy towards homosexuality. However as in many spheres of life the Soviet government was attempting to encourage a materialist based rational and scientific understanding of the world despite the huge devastation of civil war, backwardness of the peasantry and economic hardships.

The socialist revolution could not remain isolated in one country and a backward one at that, the Soviet state degenerated under conditions of lagging world revolution and the rule of the conservative bureaucracy who made a virtue of ‘socialism in one country’ rather than a temporary necessity. With the defeat of the revolutionary internationalist Left Opposition by the early 1930s, conservative patriarchy once again became the dominant norm in the Soviet Union, coupled with a desire to increase the population and reproach the Orthodox Church.

In this environment homosexuality was again criminalised by the conservative bureaucracy in 1933, punishable by 5 years hard labour or prison. All kinds of lies were then used to justify persecution of LGBT people, from homosexuality being a disease, mental illness, fascist perversion and decadent bourgeois lifestyle choice.[5] The roots of modern homophobia in Russia stem from this.

The current wave of homophobia is also in tandem with nationalism and anti-immigrant rhetoric, videos have been posted by far right groups for several years now showing immigrants from former soviet republics being tortured or killed, this has now happened to some perceived as gay. The fear in Russia of a growth in the immigrant populations from former Soviet Republics and the low birth rate among Russians has led to attacks on non-procreation sex, particularly by the powerful Orthodox Church which during the Soviet period was a favourite cause for the West to support.[6]

The growth in these reactionary forces has been the result of the collapse of the planned economy of the USSR and the onslaught of savage gangster capitalism of the 1990s, which although now passed into a more stable period still wrenches up reactionary ideas and prejudice for survival. While Putin has fairly moderate and tolerant views on the subject he leans on the Orthodox Church and bourgeois public opinion for his political survival pandering to traditional values and social conservatism.

In a country like Russia the Western imperialists are correctly associated with the Yeltsin spearheaded return of capitalism in the 1990s in which millions suffered as society was torn apart, anything associated with the West such as LGBT equality is seen negatively especially given the social conservatism and the aggressive nature of world imperialism which today is dominated by the US and its NATO allies resting on the liberal ideology of ‘regime change’ in order to bring ‘freedom and democracy’ and ‘human rights’ to what is presented as less civilised nations.

The rights of LGBT people were of course fought for against huge opposition by the ruling class, the struggle was taken up mainly by trade unions and the labour movement and were not handed down to us by the liberal bourgeoisie. It was less than 30 years ago that Britain was a far more homophobic country and Thatcher’s government introduced the notorious Section 28 of the local government act which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality as a normal relation, no different to the current Russian policy.

PinkPound

PinkAbsolute

Condemning Russia for homophobia is total hypocrisy, in 13 US states homosexual acts are still illegal,[7] as is the case in their client states of Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia to mention two, in the latter of which homosexuality can be punished by execution, as we mentioned above.

Many of the social liberals on the left who like to pose as Marxists have given support to the imperialist hypocrisy, using it as another reason to attack Russia which is currently facing the threat of huge military aggression from the West, just as some had supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 in the name of women’s rights. We cannot know the extent of persecution of LGBT people in semi-colonial and oppressed countries, some of the reports could be imperialist propaganda or misrepresentations.

Another important factor we must take into account is that liberalism places labels on people partly as bourgeois sociological practice to divide the working class but also to create niche markets for commercial consumption. Thus advertisements for a lifestyle or goods aimed at the ‘pink pound’ alienates people who experiment or experience homosexual attraction or relationships but do not feel that they fit into these labels, nor do they desire to.

Therefore the West’s version of ‘gay rights’ is a liberal discourse which imperialism is attempting to impose on people in oppressed countries who will not understand or cannot conceive. Socialists fight for sexual freedom and sex education, which should be part of our demands in oppressed countries. It is not possible to eradicate decades and centuries of isolation, oppressive thought, clericalism, and backward ideas overnight, revolutionary transformation takes much longer and requires the development of the highest material and scientific technique at the disposal of society.

The lefts who support the liberal idea that formal equality in law alone as the means to end special oppression are hopelessly pandering to reformism and their own imperialist ruling class. While of course these laws are important to reduce or prevent harassment by the police or protect LGBT people from state persecution they do not bring about liberation from this society. The Gay Liberation Manifesto of 1971 stated ‘gay liberation does not just mean reforms. It means a revolutionary change in our whole society.’[8]

Early LGBT activists understood that it was capitalism and class society which oppressed them relying as it does on marriage and the nuclear family to help reproduce its class relations and productive system. Now the liberals are using formal equality to create a new straightjacket for LGBT people; gay marriage as a means to the nuclear family, middle class lifestyle and successful careers.

Capitalism will always try to buy off the specially oppressed groups in society whether it is women, black people or gays. LGBT activists should reject the idea of marriage as a means of ending oppression and while we support all laws which provide equal rights, marriage is a pillar of capitalism.

While there is nothing wrong with monogamy if that is what a couple choose, marriage means the state recognises it as the only valued or legitimate means of raising a family.

It also expects it to be for life, which is hypocritical. There are people in non-nuclear families such as single parents or families in shared accommodation or in refuges who will be affected more than others by austerity, these workers are not recognised by the state as legitimate families. Trotsky in response to a question on the Soviet government and family relations posed by an American magazine said: “If one understands by “family” ideal monogamy-not in the legal but in the actual sense-then the Bolsheviks could not destroy what never was nor is on earth, barring fortunate exceptions.”[9]

The current campaigns focussing on gay marriage ignore the important issues facing all the working class some of which will affect LGBT workers and women the most, such as massive cuts to the benefit system, privatisation of the NHS, reduction of support to voluntary groups which provide sex education and sexual health awareness and provision.

The tasks of revolutionary socialists is to unite workers’ in common class interests to break down the artificial barriers of nation, race, gender and sexual orientation and build an international proletarian party to lead the working class for socialist revolution. The victory of the working class in overthrowing capitalism is the only means to human liberation in all spheres of life including sexual relations. The defeat of imperialism is therefore the upmost importance to defeat capitalism and build socialism, harnessing technical and material resources in planned co-operation for the benefit of humanity.

The current attacks from imperialism on Russia regarding LGBT rights are similar to the hypocritical arguments used by British imperialism against German imperialism in World War One, fighting for democracy against tyranny, or Hitler’s argument that ‘civilised’ Germany was saving Poland from the barbarism of Pilsudski. Imperialism needs to strangle and plunder the semi-oppressed countries such as Russia and Syria. This requires that revolutionaries give conditional support of semi- oppressed countries in order to defeat world imperialism which is the foremost enemy of the working class and those who suffer special oppression such as LGBT people.

Notes

[1] Whitaker, B., The Guardian, Saudi Arabia’s juggling act on homosexuality, 13 Sept 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sept/13/saudi-arabia-homosexuality-juggling-act

[2] LGBT history in Russia, accessed at En.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_history_in_Russia

[3] Daniel Healy (1993), The Russian Revolution and the Decriminalisation of Homosexuality, p26-54, p37 accessed at disciplinas.stoa.usp.br/pluginfile.php/67226/mod_resource/contact/1/Homosexuality_Decriminalization_Russian_Revolution.pdf

[4] Daniel Healy (1993), p36

[5] LGBT history in Russia, accessed at En.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_history_in_Russia

[6] See discussion on this subject in Daily Kos, Understanding Russia’s homophobia, by pico, Aug 12 2013, at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/12/1228471/-Understanding-Russia-s-homophobia#

[7] 76crimes.com

[8] Gay Liberation Front : Manifesto, London, 1971, revised 1978, Internet History Sourcebooks Project, at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/glf-london.asp

[9] Trotsky, L., Family Relations Under the Soviets, Women and the Family, 1973, Pathfinder Press, New York, p53

A misrepresentation of Trotsky: Reply to Michael Calderbank

A misrepresentation of Trotsky on the Ukraine by a petty bourgeois moralist: A reply to Michael Calderbank, By Oliver Coxhead

IRightSectorThugs

Prince Charles’ timely statement “Now Putin is doing [in Ukraine] just about the same as Hitler”, which intimates that Moscow rather than Kiev has embraced a neo-Nazi Agenda. Look at the photos displayed in the BBC’s report. The BBC suggests that these Right Sector thugs are acting responsibly.

In a recent post on the social networking site Facebook LRC leading member and supporter of the ‘Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign’ Michael Calderbank attempted to give political and even revolutionary weight to his reactionary position on the current crisis in Ukraine. Under the entry ‘What Trotsky had to say to the “sectarian muddleheads” who opposed the independence of Ukraine’ we have the following article by Trotsky from 1939 re-posted: Independence of the Ukraine and Sectarian Muddleheads. Above the link to Trotsky’s article Calderbank quotes what we must assume he sees as the significant paragraph of the text and the justification for his position and his opposition to those in the Labour movement who take the anti-imperialist/anti-fascist position:

“To speed and facilitate this process, to make possible a genuine brotherhood of the peoples in the future, the advanced workers of Great Russia must even now understand the causes for Ukrainian separatism, as well the latent power and historical lawfulness behind it, and they must without any reservation declare to the Ukrainian people that they are ready to support with all their might the slogan of an independent Soviet Ukraine in a joint struggle against the autocratic bureaucracy and against imperialism.”

This is Trotsky’s call for Ukrainian independence at a time when Ukraine suffered under the Stalinist bureaucracy, he made it clear though that it must be an independent ‘Soviet Ukraine’ as an ally militarily to the USSR. Later in his article Trotsky states that Ukraine ‘will herself desire and know how to reach the necessary economic agreement with the Soviet Union, just as she herself will be able to conclude the necessary military alliance.’

Trotsky was clear that independence must be bound up with preservation of planned economy and socialised property created by the October Revolution and, as such, would mean defence of the gains in the rest of soviet territory despite the rule of the degenerate bureaucracy.

The national independence of Soviet Ukraine would mean the plan could be tailored to the needs of the Ukrainian people and not the Kremlin bureaucracy, but they would still support the plan of the rest of the USSR because it would ‘know how to make the necessary economic agreement’ and therefore improve the rationality of the plan. Consequently an independent Soviet Ukraine would not only weaken the Kremlin bureaucracy but also improve the plan for Ukraine and thereby give an impetus to socialist development in the rest of the USSR.

Trotsky was clear that the bureaucracy’s strangulation of the Ukraine had turned many of the masses, such as the peasantry and petty bourgeois as well as workers and emigrants of Ukraine, away from socialism which they had previously supported. The official communist movement headed by the Kremlin bureaucracy had no answer to Ukrainian independence as it stifled national expression and implemented disastrous agricultural policies. The loudest voices in favour of Ukrainian independence were the fascists and religious reactionary leaders:

“Of enormous political importance is the sharp turn away from the Soviet Union by Ukrainian democratic elements outside the Soviet Union. When the Ukrainian problem became aggravated early this year communist voices were not heard at all; but the voices of the Ukrainian clericals and National Socialists were loud enough. This means that the proletarian vanguard has let the Ukrainian national movement slip out of its hands and this movement has progressed far on the road to separatism.”

The answer Trotsky stressed was for the revolutionary workers’ movement to lead the desire for national independence as part of continuing socialist revolution, i.e. the political revolution against the Kremlin bureaucracy. In the case of Ukraine, to demand independence from centralised bureaucratic rule while defending the gains of the revolution and improving them by fulfilling the needs of the local population and to integrate with other soviet republics as part of the ongoing development for socialism.

To ignore the desire for independence meant sections of the masses would be driven to bourgeois nationalism and fascism. Trotsky was therefore clear it must be an independent soviet Ukraine. This is in complete opposition to the Ukraine envisaged by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Nazi Stepan Bandera. This position must be seen in the context of its time, the late 1930s on the eve of imperialist war and military threats to the USSR, the world’s first workers’ state.

Now we must examine Calderbank’s use or rather misuse of Trotsky’s article today. Firstly, he is of course using it completely in the wrong context; the USSR no longer exists and, obviously, this has thrown back consciousness of many workers’ in Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine is independent as a bourgeois republic, not a soviet republic and its borders have altered several times since Trotsky wrote his article. It is not Trotsky who is wrong though but Calderbank who chooses to take the article out of context as justification for adopting an anti-working class position.

In the Ukraine now we have the corrupt but elected government of the oligarch Yanukovych deposed by an unelected coup-government comprised of ultra-nationalists and Nazi descendent organisations such as Svoboda. Yet these nationalists plan to give up even their bourgeois independence to the imperialists of the EU and United States. We now have the situation where the Ukraine could become another vassal of US imperialism where once it had been a vassal of the Kremlin bureaucracy, a worse prospect! It would of course then become a NATO member, strengthening US imperialism’s military presence right up to the Russian border.

Clearly the imperialism of the US and EU means no true independence for Ukraine. There was more independence under the local capitalists of Yanukovych. Imperialism will mean the domination of Ukraine and Ukrainian workers by the IMF and World Bank as well as US corporations. The economic deals local oligarchs had with Russian capitalists were more beneficial to the population than would be imperialist domination. Russia is not an imperialist country, it is undoubtedly a capitalist one but has offered a better economic deal to Ukraine. The EU offers de-industrialisation, privatisation, wage cuts, social security cuts and debt. Workers in Ukraine can look to Greece, Ireland and Portugal to see their future, behind which is the finance capital and military of the U.S., ever too keen to enforce compliance using local fascist gangs. What sort of independence is that? Calderbank is silent on these facts.

In the Donbass region, focused around Luhgansk and Donetsk, there has been a groundswell of opposition by the working class to the Maidan and its coup-government which includes fascists. Calderbank’s lack of dialectical thinking means that he cannot conclude that today’s officially ‘independent’ Ukraine dominated by oligarchs and facing the domination of US/EU finance capital has developed its own internal movement for regional independence in the face of this imperialist onslaught. Trotsky’s method applied today means support for Ukrainian independence from US/EU imperialism and the self-determination of those regions which are at the forefront of the opposition to imperialism and its fascist gangs. Trotsky warned in the article Calderbank cites as his justification that ‘the very independence of the Ukraine would not be long lived in an imperialist environment’ and that ‘imperialism can be overthrown only by the proletarian revolution.’ We see the proletariat of eastern Ukraine now in open revolution and expropriating the oligarchs, and Trotsky spoke of the Ukraine as having developed a strong working class: “A powerful and purely Ukrainian proletariat has been created there by the development of industry. It is they who are destined to be the leaders of the Ukrainian people in all their future struggles.”

This same proletariat has its very existence threatened and its own rights in particular the right to speak their first language. As mentioned earlier the borders of Ukraine have altered considerably since 1939 and many Russian speakers live in the east and have intermixed with Ukrainian speakers. The calls for Ukrainian independence and ‘national unity’ by Calderbank and the ‘Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign’ mean a centralised ultra-nationalist state which suppresses the rights of minorities. Trotsky also had something to say about these opportunist supporters of ‘independence: “Opportunism consists in a passive adaptation to the ruling class and its regime, to that which already exists, including of course, the state boundaries.”

Calderbank and his ilk would rather preserve the state boundaries as they are at the expense of the working class in eastern Ukraine, even though they have expressed their will for autonomy through a referendum on this issue. Opportunists such as Calderbank line up with Svoboda, the US and EU to condemn the working class resistance as ‘terrorist’ and influenced by ‘Russian agents’, yet nothing is mentioned of the fascist terror gangs, CIA agents and mercenaries operating in Ukraine. Finance capital again uses fascism to impose its domination and, unfortunately, many on the left have chosen to support imperialism in the way they did at the start of WWI a hundred years ago, exposing themselves now as they did then as liberals and not Marxists at all.

Throughout the debates on this fundamental issue of support for the movement against imperialism in the Donbass, many leftists have been outraged at military methods and personnel being employed by the Donetsk and Luhgansk Peoples’ Republics and the fact some Kiev supporters have been kidnapped or tortured. The liberal prejudices of these middle class liberals and individuals such as Calderbank reveal their hostility toward the working class taking up the struggle against imperialism and fascism, in the course of such struggles that would mean enemies real or suspected will be given a hard time. This is a feature of revolution. They moralise about how ‘both sides are as bad’ and such arguments, the ‘moralizing philistine’s favourite method is the lumping of reaction’s conduct with that of revolution’ Trotsky noted about such leftists. (Source: Trotsky, L, Dewey, J, Novack, G, Their Morals and Ours, Pathfinder, 1973, New York, p13)

Of the middle class moralist, Trotsky wrote:

“Understanding neither the origin nor the sense of struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, discovers himself between the two fires, he will consider both belligerent camps with equal hatred. And who are all these democratic moralists? Ideologists of intermediary layers who have fallen, or are in fear of falling between the two fires. The chief traits of the prophets of this type are alienation from the great historical movements, a hardened conservative mentality, smug narrowness, and a most primitive political cowardice.”
(Source: Trotsky, L, Pathfinder, 1973, pp. 14-15)

This is a fitting description for Calderbank and the ‘Ukrainian Solidarity Campaign’ and the social strata they represent, namely the middle class and labour bureaucracy. Meanwhile the working class in the Donbass continues to fight the fascists and imperialists in its quest for survival and self-determination.