Against fascism

For those who claim president Putin is a megalomaniac sociopath intent on drawing Europe and America into some kind of Machiavellian war in order to massage his over-inflated ego, let’s look at the facts.

Over the past eight years Putin has avoided a conflict with Ukraine and by extension the European Union, America and Nato, through his refusal to annex the Luhansk and Donetsk Republics or indeed to formally acknowledge them as independent states. He allowed the Minsk agreements 1 and 2 from 2014 and 2015 to form the basis of negotiations between the Luhansk People’s Republic, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the regime in Ukraine.

For over seven years the regime in Ukraine, including the infamous fascist Azov armed forces battalion, has continually violated the Minsk agreements by shelling the independent republics with prohibited military munitions causing death and destruction. President Volodymyr Zelensky, being courted by the west, took things further when he escalated tensions and violence in February by preparing an invasion of the Donbas region by 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers. He stated publicly he wanted Ukraine to become a nuclear power.

Putin had only a few choices.

  1. Allow Kiev to retake the Donbas Republics, thereby placing pro-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists on its border.
  2. Recognise the two independent republics and send troops to protect them.
  3. Recognise them and then stage a limited incursion into Ukraine to disarm the fascists and save Europe from another war by eliminating the current Nazi threat.

Twenty-seven million Russians died defeating European fascism in World War II. Putin has prevented that from happening again.

During Donald Trump’s presidency there was no American focus on the Ukraine. But enter Biden in 2021 and now threats of a thermo-nuclear war against Russia are being openly debated by US officials. For Biden, Russia is the new enemy. Is he finishing the outstanding business of 2014, when they let two million people escape the clutches of the fascist coup? Weapons of mass destruction have been poured into Ukraine and billions of dollars spent on continued support, so now, bolstered by EU, British and Nato support, it feels strong enough to reoccupy the separatist areas of the Donbas. The American administration under Biden has been cajoling the German government to abandon the Nord Stream 2 project and impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine/Donbas issue.

If we add the weapons sales to Ukraine to the profits from American energy sales to Europe, together with the promised long-term financial support through billion-dollar loans from western financiers and global capitalists, I think we can clearly see what is really at stake in Donbas. For America the war in Donbas is no more than a vehicle to create profit with the bonus of further marginalising and isolating Russia in a continued economic war of global dominance.

On one level everything we witness is a fight between the capitalist classes of many nations, fighting over the resources of countries which are vulnerable to capitalist superiority through military and financial destabilisation. Yet the people of Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea have the right not to live under imposed fascist rule. They have democratically elected leaders in place, mandated by the people. They are Russian-speaking, with long cultural, historical, economic and family ties to Russia.

Should the fascists in Ukraine launch an all-out invasion of Donbas, we must stand with the people of the region in the face of a western-armed fascist regime.

Say no to capitalist wars for profit. Say no to fascism.

Fra Hughes

Critical support

Ukraine is not simply a semi-colony of the US like any others. It is unique, in that the Maidan coup of February 2014 installed a regime that, whilst not outright fascist, relied on US-sponsored fascist forces to achieve the coup and to continue in power by banning and repressing opponents.

Ukraine is the only country in the world to have a national holiday for an explicit Nazi collaborator like Stepan Bandera. There are hundreds of monuments to him and other Nazi collaborators in Ukraine. Lev Golinkin, writes in ‘Nazi collaborator monuments in Ukraine’ on the Forward website: “Beginning in 2014, when the Maidan uprising brought a new government to Ukraine, the country has been erecting monuments to Nazi collaborators and holocaust perpetrators at an astounding pace - there’s been a new plaque or street renaming nearly every week.”

Jack Conrad refers to the 18% Russian minority (‘Here we stand’, March 3), but the far more important statistic is Russian speakers. The Russian language is severely discriminated against, and the import of Russian-language books is banned. According to a 2004 public opinion poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, the number of people using Russian in their homes considerably exceeds the number of those who declared Russian as their native language in the census. According to the survey, Russian is used at home by 43%-46% of the population of the country (in other words, a similar proportion to Ukrainian) and russophones make a majority of the population in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.

We must make anti-imperialism our main principle in this struggle. Trotsky set out this in 1938 in regard to a putative invasion of Brazil by Britain: “In Brazil there now reigns a semi-fascist regime that every revolutionary can only view with hatred. Let us assume, however, that on the morrow England enters into a military conflict with Brazil. I ask you on whose side of the conflict will the working class be? I will answer for myself personally - in this case I will be on the side of ‘fascist’ Brazil against ‘democratic’ Great Britain.” He pointed out: “The defeat of England will at the same time deliver a blow to British imperialism and will give an impulse to the revolutionary movement of the British proletariat”.

Of course, having reached the conclusion that the defeat of the US-sponsored regime is the best outcome, we must then put forward a programme to unite the Ukraine and Russian working class. The survival of Ukraine as a sovereign nation is now doubtful, given the actions of Kiev and the Azov Battalion, but it can only be revived by the defeat of the fascists. It can only be re-established by the autonomy of the ethnic and Russian-speaking population of the Donbas. Over 80% of the shelling and the same for the casualties including the 14,000 deaths have been suffered by this population at the hands of the Azov Battalion, who paid absolutely no heed to Minsk 1 and 2. A coup by these vicious anti-Semitic fascists against the Jewish president, Zelensky, would initiate a fascist state. We must be for proper defence of language rights in education and public service and for the defeat of the fascist forces in the army.

Lest anyone doubt the reactionary character of Putin’s ultimate project for Ukraine, here are a few extracts from his speech on February 21, announcing the recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics:

“Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began immediately after the revolution of 1917 … As a result of Bolshevik policy, Soviet Ukraine arose, which even today can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine’ … And now grateful descendants have demolished monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. This is what they call decommunisation ... We are ready to show you what real decommunisation means for Ukraine …”

Fascism in western Ukraine has its origins in the Holodomor of 1932-33, in which some seven million perished from famine due to Stalin’s disastrous forced collectivisation of 1929-35. The memory of these terrible events remains in much of western Ukraine and has resulted in sympathy for Bandera’s version of independence from Russia and hatred for ‘communism’ - albeit the bogus, bureaucratic communism of Stalin: the very opposite of the revolutionary internationalist communism of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks. In a backhanded compliment, Putin’s contempt for the revolutionary Lenin is matched by his admiration for the bureaucratic, counterrevolutionary, nationalist Stalin.

We need a new Zimmerwald, a new anti-imperialist united front, to discuss and hammer out a programme for the world revolution. And that does mean engaging with other leftist groups and the mass organisations of the working class on this vital question. The call must be for arming the workers, calling for defection of soldiers on both sides of the conflict and taking out Azov without the collateral and civilian costs. Simply relying on the Russian army to do this is not going to work out well for anyone.

We must both support Putin critically to defeat the Azov Battalion, whilst seeking to mobilise the Russian working class to overthrow him. Only the Russian army can now defeat the Azov Battalion and that is certainly necessary for any progress.

To rely on Putin for anything more would prove fatal. His own fascists around him, characters like Aleksandr Dugin, Nazbol and Dmitriy Utkin’s Wagner Group, are very dangerous, but secondary enemies for us right now, but this is a very dangerous period for revolutionaries in Russia and Ukraine. The organisations of the Ukrainian working class are concentrated in the east, but also exist in the west. We need to call for mobilising them and then arming any mobilisation.

Gerry Downing
Socialist Fight

Eliminating wars

It is disappointing that in his roll call of political parties and their attitudes towards the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Jack Conrad, despite listing organisations made up of mere dozens, neglected one body - the Socialist Party of Great Britain - that has consistently stood by its long-held principle, “No war between peoples, no peace between classes”.

If we are to eliminate wars, the workers’ historic role is to transform the private ownership of the means of production and distribution into social ownership, producing for use instead of for profit. The function of the socialist movement is to educate fellow workers to this end and to impart the understanding that under capitalism the world is divided into competing nations, vying with each other to acquire and control political and economic spheres of influence.

The SPGB once again calls for the cessation of the war, declaring not a patch of dirt is worth working people shedding a drop of their blood. We say to them: “Don’t die for capitalism, but live for socialism.”

Alan Johnstone


The Weekly Worker refers to the “volcano of violence” in Ukraine (‘America’s drive to the east’. March 3). Obviously that’s both right and with enormously tragic consequences in terms of human suffering. But surely also of profound significance is the western propaganda that has been triggered by these events - where meticulously selected facts are presented within a process that allows a near-complete and anyway abjectly cynical inversion of truth, altogether amounting to nothing less than ‘shock and awe’ for those with their faculties remaining intact. That same calibre of shock and awe as was perpetrated in its own context against us all as helpless observers to the ‘coalition of the willing’ in America’s bombardments of Iraq.

Bruno Kretzschmar


As noted by CPGB comrade Mike Macnair, we are in 1870 all over again (‘Neither 1914 nor 1940’, March 3). We are definitely not in a revolutionary period for the working class.

I learned in high school about German unification in 1871 and the Franco-Prussian War. I did not learn then, however, that it was the French defeat that led to the Paris Commune in the first place. Basically, nationalist socialists in the German kingdoms, the Lassallean ADAV (one of the SPD’s predecessors), supported the Bismarck government consistently during the war.

Karl Marx initially supported the war, when learning that the French started the shooting, but, once the Prussians switched from defence to offence, he flip-flopped. The ‘Marxist’ Eisenachers, clustered around the SADP (the other SPD predecessor), opposed the war outright. August Bebel opposed it. Wilhelm Liebknecht opposed it more, because he personally hated Bismarck.

The ‘Anti-Socialist Laws’ were laid down in 1878. Even though they were doomed to fail, Bismarck simply did not forget the anti-war opposition. This is exactly the same position that the Russian left is in today in relation to their government: while the Putin regime is not a fascist one, it is an authoritarian, right-nationalist one, with white-leaning historical overtones.

Where I disagree with Macnair, however, is my position that Marx, Bebel and Liebknecht were actually wrong to oppose a Prussian victory. They should have been consistent ‘social-patriots’ on German unification at France’s expense. In today’s world, Russia’s Left Front is doing this, unlike Trotskyist or anarchist groups.

Now, what about socialists in 1870-71 France? Well, they should have preceded Alexander Parvus, the first Marxist campist: they should have opposed the French war efforts and should have been sympathetic towards a quick Prussian victory. Parvus was a critical campist because, while he came from the Russian empire, he rooted for its defeat and for a German victory. Of course, the problem is that he did so during World War I, when it was a revolutionary period for the working class.

In today’s world, 38% of US Democrats and 47% of Americans aged 18-34 think Russia’s recent actions are a bit more justifiable, to say the least.

Jacob Richter

Zionist friends

The more that he says, the deeper the hole he digs for himself. Daniel Lazare’s assertion that Moshé Machover and myself are “flagging” in our support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is wishful thinking on the part of this chauvinist scoundrel (Letters, March 3). He tries to persuade us that attacking an oppressed nation for racism and how it campaigns is compatible with socialism. It is not.

It was Engels and Marx who emphasised that “No nation can be free if it oppresses other nations”. Lenin emphasised that the imperialist epoch has “brought to the forefront the task of fighting against chauvinism and nationalism in the advanced countries”.

Having previously sung the praise of Histadrut, Zionism’s apartheid ‘union’, Lazare had nothing to say when I explained that Histadrut was not, even according to its leaders, a trade union. Instead he returned to his favourite theme - Hamas - and in the process joins every reactionary jack in the box.

It may have escaped Lazare’s attention that not only the military wing, but the political wing of Hamas, has just been proscribed as a ‘terrorist’ organisation in Britain. This accords with the position of the European Union. They too are terribly concerned about its ‘anti-Semitism’.

I’ll tell Lazare what anti-Semitism is. It is the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 and the Odessa pogroms of 1881. It is Auschwitz and Treblinka. It is Dreyfus. Anti-Semitism is not the understandable reaction of Hamas to the fact that Israel perpetrates its war crimes on an innocent and defenceless population in the name of ‘the Jews’.

Of course, Hamas is reactionary and nationalist, but it is still a Palestinian resistance organisation. Its 1988 charter with anti-Semitic formulations did not prevent Israel at that time supporting it against secular nationalist organisations.

Khaled Meshaal, its political leader, made it clear in an interview with CBS that “We are not fanatics; we are not fundamentalists. We do not actually fight the Jews because they are Jews per se ... We fight the occupiers.”

Likewise Osama Hamdan of Hamas was quoted in The Times of Israel in 2017 as saying that, in the amended charter, “You will find ... that we [sic] against the Zionists, against the occupation of our lands and we will resist the occupiers, whoever they were. And we are not against anyone regarding to his religion or to his race.”

In an article, ‘Hamas condemns the holocaust’, Bassem Naeem wrote: “We are not engaged in a religious conflict with Jews; this is a political struggle to free ourselves from occupation and oppression” (The Guardian May 12 2008).

Like every Zionist propagandist Lazare refuses to accept these assurances. Lazare sees racism where it doesn’t exist and ignores it where it is alive and kicking. Racism is what you do, not what you say. Give me even one example of anti-Semitic discrimination against Jews who have entered the Gaza Strip as solidarity activists.

Like his Zionist friends, Lazare chooses to ignore the very real racism of Zionism, which, unlike Hamas, is put into practice. Last June’s Jerusalem Day demonstration was attended by thousands of settlers who chanted “Death to the Arabs” and “May your village burn”. These slogans aren’t merely words. They are integral to the systematic oppression that Palestinians experience every day. Yet Lazare has nothing to say about this either.

If he wanted examples of Nazi-style racism, then it is amongst Zionist Jews, not Palestinians, that he will find them. In 2009, rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur wrote a book, Torat Hamelech (‘The king’s torah’), which was a manual on how to kill non-Jews legally. When the book was criticised, hundreds of Israeli rabbis rushed to support it. The Israeli state refused to prosecute the authors.

To quote from one extract:

“There are times in which we will want to harm the innocent from the outset. And their presence and their killing is actually beneficial and helpful to us. For example, harming the infants from the wicked king’s family, who are currently innocent; their killing helps us to harm and pain the king, so that he will stop fighting us.”

But to Lazare racism is an ‘equal opportunities employer’. In other words, it has no relationship to class. It is an ideology that affects everyone - a virus even. This is the Zionist analysis of anti-Semitism. To Lazare racism has nothing to do with imperialism, colonialism or indeed capitalism. Black workers can be equally guilty. Do I really need to respond to this pernicious nonsense? Let me set Lazare’s mind to rest. I’ve known many supporters of Hamas and have never experienced any form of anti-Semitism from them. I’ve experienced ‘Pity Hitler didn’t get you’, but that was from Zionists!

Hamas politically has no influence on BDS, which is a widespread, grassroots movement of solidarity activists and mainly secular Palestinians. Even the Zionists don’t pretend that it is a Hamas demand. This is purely Lazare’s obsession. BDS is seen, quite correctly, by Israel as a threat to its legitimacy. That was why they passed a BDS law in 2011. Thirty US states have passed anti-BDS acts, as have several European states. Britain is in the process of doing this. Lazare, in his sectarian self-isolation, has nothing to say about this imperialist unity.

Lazare asks: “Should socialists have called on France and Britain in the late 1930s to impose an economic blockade on Nazi Germany?” I have news for him. They did! But that didn’t stop them campaigning amongst workers and wider society for a grassroots boycott. The same with the boycott of South Africa. So, of course, activists demand that their governments impose sanctions on Israel. Lazare, however, chooses to join hands with the imperialists, not anti-Zionists.

Tony Greenstein

BDS or not

It seems like Daniel Lazare is obsessing over Hamas again - I can’t really think why. Oppressed populations come up with all sorts of ‘remedies’ to try and get their oppressors off their backs or at least alleviate them. As comrades have pointed out, Israel was keen to build up Hamas as an alternative to secular opposition movements - perhaps following on from the impressive success of the USA in building up al Qa’eda.

Desperation can lead to all sorts of moves - some successful, many counterproductive. Terrorism can have its moments, but racial hatred, including anti-Semitism, is always counterproductive - in the long or even short term. Daniel tells us that Hamas hasn’t dropped anti-Semitism, just manoeuvred about with it a bit - very similar perhaps to US political parties and racism.

But Hamas isn’t BDS and BDS isn’t Hamas - despite the overlap. Is Lazare implying that we should only support movements and campaigns where we also support the leadership? Doesn’t leave much, does it? We can critically support all sorts of movements and campaigns or are we to say ‘a plague on all your houses’ to BLM, XR, CND, not to mention a plethora of charities?

People give to charity, support campaigns and do all sorts of things without necessarily delving into their history and leadership. Perhaps we should delve into Hamas - there’s a lot of contradictory history there - but not to oppose BDS!

I wonder, concerning the long list of actors, musicians, local authorities, student unions and academics, how many BDS activists went to the BDS leadership and sought their political advice, perhaps filling in an application form?

As Moshé Machover has pointed out, “BDS is not a front, but a campaign” (Letters, February 24). He describes it as “the most successful campaign for Palestinian rights”. Lazare may have a scheme for an absolutely pure and correct movement to relieve some of the oppression of the Palestinian people, but I don’t think they can wait for its fruition.

And the Zionists don’t like BDS; they hate it! Screams of ‘Anti-Semitism!’ greet its every appearance, as they round up their allies in government, local authorities, universities, everywhere, to try and get it put away.

But why do people support it? I’m sure that Lazare is aware of the crimes of Israel. The cutting of vines just before harvest, the stealing or burning of olive trees, the demolition of homes, the imprisonment and/or murder of the innocent - including children. That’s why people support BDS; not because they want to join Hamas.

Lazare speaks of the Israeli working class and there are a lot of very brave Israeli Jews who stand up for the Palestinians - Breaking the Silence, an organisation of former members of the military in Israel, comes to mind. Then there are the extremely brave few who assist Palestinian farmers, as they try and plant or harvest in the face of settler violence. This is in the hope that, although they may get beaten up, as Jews they probably won’t be murdered. Those few are greatly outnumbered by the many, including those that chant ‘Death to the Arabs’, as they march around Jerusalem.

One Israeli response to Hamas is to say that they are terrorists. I would suggest that if you were to list terrorist organisations in the land then Hamas would come well down the page after the IDF, the border guards, the police and, of course, the West Bank settlers - guarded by some or all of the above - along with a few more.

In short, to say that because of Hamas BDS is anti-Semitic sounds more like Keir Starmer than comrade Lazare. I’m somewhat surprised.

Jim Nelson

Ignore Hamas

Daniel Lazare alleges that I “claim that anyone who points out that Hamas is part of the BDS governing structure is guilty of ‘arguing like a hasbara operative’ - which is to say - a Zionist propagandist”.

This is untrue. What I did say was that he had grossly inflated the role of Hamas in the BDS campaign, in order to divert the discussion to the fake dichotomy, ‘Israeli working class v Hamas’. In this he indeed emulated the tactics of Israel’s hasbara. In his article, ‘A Hamas popular front’, he posed the question, “What is BDS?” (Weekly Worker February 17). To which he replied directly by going on and on and on about Hamas, as if it runs or controls the BDS campaign, or plays a special role in it. This is false. In fact Hamas is included, along with virtually all Palestinian civil, political and military organisations, in the Palestinian BDS National Committee - the nominal governing body of the campaign. Singling out Hamas is a cunning device designed to sidetrack the debate about BDS into a discussion of Hamas.

My advice to comrades is not to fall into this trap. In the context of the BDS debate, the nature of Hamas is irrelevant and should be ignored.

Moshé Machover

Another planet

Andrew Northall’s letter in the March 3 edition of the Weekly Worker took me back in time and place - the time being the 1930s and the place being another planet! I had to pinch myself at first - thinking I had come across the transcript of an Alexei Sayle routine from the 1990s about his mam and dad’s trips to Czechoslovakia.

I was astonished to learn that “Stalin was an absolutely committed and dedicated communist and revolutionary, who was utterly committed to the socialist revolution and the achievement and building of socialism”. It’s also a long time since I have heard the claim that Soviet opponents to Stalin’s murderous rule were “linked with intelligence agencies”.

Comrade Northall accepts that “Stalin did indeed use the Great Purge to eliminate some of his political opponents”. So, all in all, it’s swings and roundabouts.

Before we all get too carried away in condemning Stalin, we’re told that “Roberts’s evidence suggests to me that the great majority of the investigation and trial evidence of the anti-Soviet conspiracies in the 1930s was largely factual and true”.

He finishes by criticising Jack Conrad’s article in a recent Weekly Worker, saying:

“But, when it comes to real class struggle and real revolution in the real existing USSR, Conrad’s Kautskyism comes to the fore. He is, obviously, completely opposed to the very real class struggles fought by genuine communists against the enemies of Soviet state power, which did very much include the Great Purge of 1937-38, as one specific episode. The socialist revolution did not start and finish within 10 days in October-November 1917.”

It’s apt that Northall brings up Kautsky, given that by this stage Stalin had surrounded himself by ex-Menshevik henchmen, dedicated to filling their bellies at the expense of the Soviet working class. Stalin - the gravedigger of revolutions - created the system which buried the leaders of the revolution and tens of thousands of other party members, who had dedicated their lives to bettering humankind.

The same Stalinist system eventually led to counterrevolution - one of the consequences of which we now see playing out in Ukraine.

Matt Kelly