Ukraine & the Future of Social Movements


We have heard terrifying stories from the revolution in Ukraine: anarchists participating in anti-government street-fighting behind nationalist banners, anarchist slogans and historical figures appropriated by fascists… a dystopia in which familiar movements and strategies reappear with our enemies at the helm.

This text is a clumsy first attempt to identify the important questions for anarchists elsewhere around the world to discuss in the wake of the events in Ukraine. We present it humbly, acknowledging that our information is limited, hoping that others will correct our errors and improve on our analysis. It has been difficult to maintain contact with comrades in the thick of things; surely it is frustrating to be peppered with ill-informed questions amid the tragedies of civil war.

What is happening in Ukraine and Venezuela appears to be a reactionary counterattack within the space of social movements. This may be a sign of worse things to come—we can imagine a future of rival fascisms, in which the possibility of a struggle for real liberation becomes completely invisible. Here follow our hypotheses and an English-language reading list for those who are still catching up.

Read the analysis.

7 thoughts on “Ukraine & the Future of Social Movements

  1. The article downplays the importance of the established fact of Western intervention. The state department and organizations like USAID and others do openly or semi-covertly what the CIA used to do covertly. Yes, there will always be legitimate grievances, (and there should be under any capitalist government) but some grievances are not legitimate and both can be used to further U.S. imperialism. History has shown time and time again that it takes a state (or a mass authoritarian organization of the working class) to stand up to a state and defeat it. The Ukrainian working class would be wise to welcome the aid of capitalist Russia in the fight against the number one enemy – U.S. imperialism. If those bastards finally take over the whole world things will be much, much worse. It will be the end.

    “…in the new exuberant aggressiveness of world capitalism we see what communists and their allies held at bay.” – Richard Levins

  2. Vladimir–What happened the last time the working classes of Ukraine “united” with the Russian state? It’s even more damning for your argument that Russia was a “communist” state back then. For those who don’t know, millions of people were forcibly relocated, imprisoned, and executed. Everyone who wants us to choose between states rather than rejecting them entirely is complicit in perpetuating the unthinkable brutality they always carry out against us. What’s more, when it comes to receiving foreign “aid,” only anarchists can show that our hands are clean–what’s to say those who endorse some state or another are not on its payroll, or at least aspiring to be? What else could possibly cause someone to endorse Russia in this situation?

    You can’t simply say “pragmatism”–that has always been the excuse of reactionaries since at least 1848. No one imagined there could be a successful proletarian revolution anywhere before 1917–the problem was not that it was impossible, nor impossible to defend (as the Makhnovschina showed), but rather that “pragmatism” once again persuaded the revolutionaries into the arms of statists. The next phase of world revolutions will be anarchist, or else humanity is doomed.

  3. b. traven – Some of your assumptions are based on propaganda and the rest simply show a misunderstanding of history. The Makhnovschina, in order to achieve the temporary victories it did, created its own Cheka intelligence agency called the Kontrrazvedka. Makhno would shut down the Bolshevik press in areas of Ukraine under his control. He threatened to have the editor shot. At one point the anarchists even sided briefly with the White army! The Makhnovschina would do the same as the Bolsheviks, but call it something else. This is all from your own anarchist historians who don’t even deny this stuff; they just rationalize it somehow. There is evidence to show that the anarchists struck out at the Bolsheviks first and in many other ways proved themselves to be lacking in discipline and completely unreliable allies.

    The anarchists have never won a revolution and are incapable of doing so as long as they cling to childish anarchist theories and tactics.

  4. Vladimir–You brush off the forced relocation, imprisonment, and execution of millions of people and hurry to change the subject, ironically by accusing unnamed historians of dishonesty and rationalizing. But my point stands: those who wish to defend the state must rationalize all sorts of unconscionable brutality. If you are willing to excuse the bloodbaths carried out by the Bolsheviks, not just against other groups but also against each other, we certainly have no reason to trust your good faith–or your reading of history.

    At the very maximum, you might be able to persuade a naive reader that in some respects the Makhnovschina were still too statist, but certainly not that the statism you defend is desirable in any way. Criticizing them by comparing them with the butchers who took advantage of their good faith to slaughter them is in poor taste, to say the least, and doesn’t make your position more appealing.

    Even in the choice you offer between being a failed anarchist and a successful Bolshevik, i would still rather be killed by statists like you than to “succeed” only by becoming a rationalizing, murderous statist myself. (Especially considering how many of the Bolsheviks were then bumped off by other Bolsheviks.) But there is another option: we can learn the lessons of the 20th century, recognizing that the essence of any meaningful revolution is not to perfect the state, but to abolish it.

    “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
    -Maya Angelou

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