The savage war ordered by Putin against the people of Ukraine has demonstrated that atrocities as barbaric as those perpetrated by all sides in the first and second World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45, are being repeated in 2022. Despite now a having a designated category of ‘crimes against humanity’, the 21st century world is as powerless as the ancient BCE populations to stop deranged individuals seizing control of political and military power and letting loose the dogs of war. This modern ability of elites to force a section of the populations under their control to seek, kill and destroy the citizens of another community, is a continuance of the actions of city states and empires dating back to the ancient middle and far east.
Since, the splitting of human communities into classes, several thousand years ago, the class that dominates and rules, has retained sufficient punitive power to ensure that all other classes obey them in all matters. This includes ensuring the obedience of decisions to forcibly conquer and control territory not under their immediate control. However, it is so much against nature in general and human nature in particular, for living beings to engage in mass murder of other living beings that even powerful elites are required to invent reasons to do so. However, unlike, Darius, Xerxes, Alexander, Solon, Nero, Hannibal etc., (his ancient counterparts), President Putin, was able to publish his reasons for territory grabbing in Ukraine on the Internet. And unlike the subservient slaves and peasants of those ancient empires we modern working class plebeians can actually read and understand them.
In his 18 page view of Ukraine and his justification for wanting control of it the President of Russia enlists his understanding of history and asserts that;
“Russians and Ukrainians were one people – a single whole…Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus,….At the same time, both the nobility and the common people perceived Rus as a common territory, as their homeland.” (page 2)
First of all it is ridiculous to claim that even Russians are one people, let alone Russians and Ukrainians. It is common knowledge that the whole area from the near east to the far east has, over thousands of years, been settled by people from India, Asia, Persia, Assyria Arabia, Mongolia etc. Migrations on that continent went to and fro during the early formation of the regions city states and empires. Furthermore, Ukrainians are not descendants of Ancient Rus either. Ancient Rus is a descriptive historical term not a biological lineage and so Rus does not have descendants. Indeed, there is no community comprising of a one people, or a single whole peoples – anywhere on the planet – let alone on the Asian hot-house plateaux of competing and inter – breeding ‘civilisations’. The one people concept he uses is simply a by product of the 20th century degenerate invention of racial categories.
However, Mr Putin obviously views people as belonging to a ruling dynasty which has previously conquered, exploited and oppressed the native people’s land. For he notes that; “..both the nobility and the common people perceived Rus as a common territory, as their homeland.”. There is no evidence that the common people (the Kholopi or Smerdi) of ancient Rus perceived their existence in that way. The practice of powerful people privatising nature by conquest and then making the common people pay to use it and live on it, has been resented by local people since the practice began several thousand years ago. For example, during the 12th century the common people had to pay tribute to the representatives of the Tartar-Mongol invaders which was collected by Baskaks, the local Russian parasitic vassals. Peasants and serfs clearly did not consider Rus as a territory held in common or held for the common good.
Indeed, Russian history of that period (and later) is replete with “huge, widespread and fearsome revolts”. In the 17th century, 200,000 Cossacks, peasants and natives rebelled and “killed landowners and members of the prosperous middle class.” (Braudel, A History of Civilisations’. Penguin page 544.) there were literally thousands of peasant revolts over the following centuries. In a land where serfs were traded like cattle to the highest bidder at auctions, resentment against the elite was frequently boiling over. It was so bad that Czars of Russia were repeatedly assassinated and nobles killed by a severely discontented population. An attempted revolution in 1905 was followed by the Stolypin reaction and things got even worse. The novels of Tolstoy, Gogol, Chekhov, Pushkin and Dostoyevski merely scrape the surface of the brutalising experience of the ordinary people of Russia – but even these insights are ignored by the current President of Russia.
What President Putin is providing in this 2022 article is a view of history purely from the perspective of a ruling elite. Moreover, as is par for the course, it is an elite who only see what they want to see, hear only what they want to hear and read only what they want to read. His task and his supporters is to construct an historical narrative that ignores historical reality and serves to justify 21st century territorial land grabbing in Ukraine and the consequent atrocities.
His article continues with selecting a few items from the historical record of the 15th and 17th and 19th centuries, but nothing is selected which clashes with his view as an elite ruler who wishes to claim back people and territory which previous elites had lost – having stolen them from others in the first place. The fact that a Russian Czar, Peter the Great, tried to conquer Sweden and failed but managed to invade and conquer as far as Azov is conveniently ignored. Mr Putin then goes on to blame the Bolsheviks for allowing a degree of independence to soviet territories and for thus “robbing Russia” of historic territory. Clearly his words and actions indicate that territory and resources were (and are) high on his agenda and this is further revealed in a section on western interference. He writes;
“Along with that we are witnessing not just complete dependence but direct external control….This is also a disguise for the takeover of the rest of the Ukrainian economy and the exploitation of its natural resources. The sale of agricultural land is not far off, and it is obvious who will buy it up.” (page 15/16)
The author understands capitalism enough to realise that finance capital resources in North America, Europe and Britain are eager to snap up cheap sources of Ukraine’s fertile farm land and profitable industry and to obtain a crucial degree of “external control”, but he would prefer it was snapped up by Russian based capitalists for them to control. Incidentally this particular extract flags up a fundamental part of the economic basis of the decades of political and military stand off between capitalist Russia and the capitalist West. The question for both power blocs is how best to obtain control of these Ukrainian resources. Putin in his article also tries a bit of flattery. He wrote;
“We know how hard working and talented the people of Ukraine are. They can achieve success and outstanding results with perseverance and determination.” (Page 11.)
Now almost the entire world knows how accurate these two sentences are. By exhibiting determination and perseverance the talented people of Ukraine have achieved outstanding results and success in resisting the armed might of the Russian Federation. Not exactly the result the President of the Russian Federation hoped for. This next extract indicates that he can be wrong again as he clearly felt a Russian invasion force would be welcomed.
“….for many people in Ukraine, the anti-Russia project is simply unacceptable. And there are millions of such people. But they are not allowed to raise their heads. They have had their legal opportunity to defend their point of view in fact taken away from them. They are intimidated, driven underground. Not only are they persecuted for their convictions, for the spoken word, for the open expression of their position, but they are also killed. Murderers, as a rule, go unpunished.” (page 16.)
Mr Putin’s millions of pro – Russians Ukrainians – if they existed – did not raise their heads, but stayed underground to hide from Russian shelling and from possible rape and murder by Russian troops. And in fact the ones intimidated and persecuted for their convictions were actually Russian citizens who opposed Putin’s Special Operation in Ukraine. Furthermore, the mass murderers who so far have gone unpunished are now in fact many of the Russian troops. This whole Special Operation war with its mass graves and bombed out apartment blocks in many towns and cities will hardly have endeared Ukrainian people to Russia – even those Ukrainians who were originally supportive of Russia. What will the millions of people of Ukraine – now made homeless and displaced – make of Putin’s closing words in this article?
“I will say one thing – Russia has never been and will never be ”anti-Ukraine“. And what Ukraine will be – it is up to its citizens to decide”. (page 17.)
Incidentally, the political class of Ukraine may be no better than the hedonistic dilettantes presently damaging the economic and social fabric of Britain, Europe and America, but they have so far not invaded any other country nor tried to kill and maim defenseless citizens. In Ukraine there may be – as in every country in the world – a percentage of citizens who are sexist, racist, homophobic and even rabidly right wing, however, this fact cannot be used to justify what the Russian elite has perpetrated since February 2022 and before. From a revolutionary-humanist perspective even those among us who are mistaken and dangerous are still human beings and as such deserve to be treated humanely, not bombed out of existence, poisoned by Novichok or tortured, raped and shot in the back of the head.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2022)
For Mr Putin’s full article visit: en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66181