Editorial: Putin the Great or Putin the Terrible?

Stop the War!

‘Do you know what I do to people who get in the way of me?’ asked the thuggish manager of a Gazoprom plant sitting across the table from me.

‘No, what do you do to them?’

‘I destroy them.’ He said. And he stared at me, unsmiling.

We must understand one thing very clearly. This is a brutal, capitalist Russia. The Russian nomenclature does not have many friends in Europe partly because it does not deserve to have friends in Europe. Still, from the perspective of the exploited, developing world, we should recognise that bourgeois nationalism, such as the bourgeois nationalism of Russia, can form a firebreak against rampant US imperialism.

US imperialism and Chinese proto-fascism are, in an age of global warming, arguably, the foremost enemies of humankind.

The frightening fact is that competition between different centres of capitalism in the first part of the 20th century led to WW1, and we are witnessing just such a competition between centres of capitalism right now.

The Russian answer to Western provocation and NATO expansion eastwards was, perhaps, understandable, if not excusable. But if you are not a Russian nationalist and if you do not ally yourself firmly with the strategic aims of the Russian state and its actors (who are deeply corrupt) then sympathy for Russia’s response to decades of NATO provocation – as the bodies pile high – has severe limits.

Did Russia have another course of action?

Had Russia settled on a more enlightened political system and not on brute capitalism, had it shown more solidarity with women, homosexuals, Muslims, Jews, Palestinians and people in developing countries around the world, then Russia would have a lot more support and less opposition in the UN, Europe and the rest of the world now.

No, the Germans, in opposing Russia have not suddenly turned into Nazis.

Putin’s toxic masculinity, the concentration of obscene fortunes in a few hands, and the promotion of social conservatism all provide an excuse to people who dislike leaders who have learned nothing from struggles for emancipation, and nothing from the social revolutions of the 1960s, to oppose Russia.

At the moment, the advancement of trans rights are an important part of the movement towards progressive social change in Europe. Trans rights are ignored in Russia.

If Russia had not provided legitimate excuses for opposing it, then Russia would have many more countries and people on its side now. Russia wouldn’t be up against the wall strapped to a nuclear suicide bomb threatening to take us all down with it.

There are good reasons why some of the former Eastern European countries and Soviet bloc countries detest Russia – countries like Poland. And it is no coincidence that it is the right-wing nationalist autocrats and former autocrats around the word like Modi, Duterte and Trump who most favour Putin; they share in his social conservatism. We should not be on the side of these unreconstructed patriarchs.

An enlightened human being living in 2022 should not subscribe to the toxic values promoted by an intolerant, recidivist, brutal, capitalist state: Russia. Russia Today was notorious for pandering to right wing opposition – though that was no reason to ban it.

And, let us be clear, once and for all. Though the heroic Soviet (and I stress Soviet) people liberated Europe from the greater part of Nazism, Stalin, like Putin, was also a great Russian nationalist. The behaviour of some Russian troops across Europe on liberating Austria, Germany and other European states was despicable. This behaviour added to the bitterness and trauma of the Germans and Austrians in defeat.

Did the fascists deserve punishment and death? Yes! Undoubtedly. Did women and children deserve to be raped repeatedly and killed? No, they did not! Even if that was what the Nazis did to Soviet civillians, and in particular, Soviet Jewish civilians.

Eastern and central Europe were not liberated by an army of enlightened socialists, but by an angry and largely apolitical army of Soviet farm boys and workers.

So, Russia is where it is because it has lost many friends. Those of us who knew Russia a little in Soviet times knew that racism and anti-Semitism were endemic.

Socialism of a sort, arose in one of the most backward, top heavy, autocratic states in Europe. Putin doubled down on that when socialism ended.

We should blame Gorbachev. Gorbachev was too weak to see through the changes. Instead of reform and enlightened socialism we got the break up of the USSR, Great Russianism; ten thousand little bloodsucking multimillionaire tics grew fat. Hundreds of billionaires bloomed.

Of course, people from small countries all over – oppressed by larger neighbours – will naturally identify with the situation of the Ukraine. They will support it despite its out-and-out fascist regiment, despite the fact that it was manipulated into a proxy war and despite the fact that the USA organised a provocative coup d’etat in the Ukraine in 2014.

In conclusion, it is understandable why capitalist Russia, wallowing in reaction, responded the way it did. One thing led to another, though it need not have. On both sides. Russia is in this position because it failed to make alliances and create a fairer and more enlightened society.

While, the annexation of Bosnia was a major cause of WW1 and the Serbs were right to feel aggrieved when Austria annexed it, being right about Bosnia was not the issue. What is at issue now is the prospect of a dangerous clash between an imperial USA and a nationalist Russia that threatens the economy and security of the most advanced continent on Earth.

What is to be done?

A call for an immediate ceasefire. A Russian national assembly where the people who got their clammy hands Russia’s state-owned infrastructure and industry have to give it back and pay reparations!

If Russia wants friendship with Europe and Britain, then Russia must sign up fully to European Human Rights legislation and ensure that it implements measures to guarantee that Russia evolves into an enlightened and tolerant, humane social democracy – providing equal rights for all minorities. Russia must legislate to guarantee diversity and inclusion. If Russia wants to get on with Europe it needs to align itself with these values – which are, after all, universal.

If the west and Putin manage to stop the war, then Putin will have have to deal with the consequences of the actions of his government. The Russian people will have to pay for the reconstruction of the Ukraine with no strings attached. Putin will also have to face up to the fact that it is not just rank imperialism that opposes Russian capitalism in its current form, but most of enlightened 21st century society.

Will the Russians and Ukrainians who died in the Ukraine have died purely for the preservation of such a brutally unequal and reactionary society? The surviving soldiers in WW1 returning to their home countries asked the same question. One of the consequences of the 1914 war was the Russian revolution.