There are undoubtedly crimes being committed in Ukraine, against the civilian population, their homes and public buildings and everyone knows it. Eye witness accounts and photographic evidence clearly confirm this. By falsely classifying all those who oppose him in Ukraine, as Nazis, Putin and his supporters have tried to justify their own violent authoritarian practices by this inverted subterfuge. This method of justifying violence by dehumanising the victims, is a deliberate distortion of reality. In actual fact, Putins’ orders for this military attack on Ukraine, certainly falls into the same category as those leveled against the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg in 1945 after the Second World War. Consequently, an analogy between the incursion into Ukraine this February/March 2022 and another in Czechoslovakia in 1938 is not stretching matters too far.
Back then, another hard man on the authoritarian side of politics, Adolf Hitler, had come into power in Germany and was absolutely determined to make Germany great again. His intention was to get more land and resources and so annexed Austria as steps in that expansionist ambition. Not wishing to start another world war, many diplomatic efforts were made by the elites in Britain and elsewhere to ‘appease’ Hitler. They agreed to allow him to annex certain territories, irrespective of the wishes and welfare of the people living in them. By doing so the elites hoped that this sanctioned territory grabbing would be enough to prevent further military expansion and bloodshed. The British Prime Minister at the time, Neville Chamberlain, visited Hitler in 1938 and convinced himself he had achieved ‘Peace For Our Time’.
But of course he hadn’t! Why? Because certain people elevated into positions of power and authority, with powerful expansionist backers and with a mentality of arrogant self-righteousness, are stubborn and devious enough, to carry out their intentions regardless of any rational or humane considerations. That is to say regardless of how many deaths they cause and whatever impediments and obstacles are put in their way. Hitler, was such a man. Even, when he had control of western Europe (France, etc) he wanted more and ordered his army, air force and navy to blitzkrieg their way to occupation success in the east as far as Moscow. He even refused to surrender when deep in his bunker, it was clear his armies, navies and air forces had been all but wiped out.
As in any school playground if you don’t stop the aggressive bully asap you just get more aggressive bullying. In the larger context of big men authoritarian politics, absolutely nothing convinces such men that they are wrong, that they are unjustified, that views opposed to theirs are just different and do not deserve to be violently silenced. Dogmatic certainty about somethings or about many things (such as great nation destiny) is clearly a culturally learned intellectual symptom. It is irritating enough when encountered in clerics, mystics, pedants and politicians, but it is dangerous to humanity when it takes hold of someone with immense power to do harm and damage. The question arises; is Vladimir Putin one of those men with arrogant, self-righteousness and dogmatically certainty who until stopped is sure his destiny is just to plow on regardless?
The interesting and troubling process and outcome of the above noted ‘Peace For Our Time’ appeasement strategy. It was devised by an elite group in 1938 Britain, which had years of armed invasions in their political DNA, who were negotiating with another elite group in Germany, also with years of armed invasions in its political DNA. In 1938, could one expansionary oligarchy with blood on its hands, really occupy the moral high ground in talking to another with blood on its hands? Of course not. And this is still the problem in 2022. Can an American led NATO, negotiating team, with their countries invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan behind them and who turn a blind eye to Israeli invasions and slow genocide in Palestine, convincingly lecture Putin on moderation or policy reversal?
With all this history, could the western elites, really be convincing in suggesting that Putin stop his own particular invasions? All such opposed ‘great power’ elite sides can do now, (as in the past), is strike some deal with each other on how to divide the current and future spoils of invasion, occupation and control. They have no other logical position. Furthermore, are elites in the west, after accepting party political donations from Russian oligarchs, likely to bring charges of Crimes Against Humanity against Putin etc? This is unlikely given that many of their own elites have previously authorised similar invasions!
The only agency capable of assembling and processing the evidence of crimes against humanity by heads of states – without bias – are those citizens outside of official government circles. It is to be hoped that such detailed forensic work is continued by those who able to do so. It is needed for everything about the current situation of extreme citizen oppression in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Palestine and the ‘normal’ levels of oppression elsewhere, points to a world-sized critical problem.
Humanity is locked into a global capitalist based system which is profoundly destructive and systematically unfair at the local, national and international levels.
The intellectual and military stranglehold that powerful elites exert upon hierarchical societies everywhere means that the mass of ordinary peoples can only protest if crimes against humanity are perpetrated by their governing elites. Yet if ordinary citizens dare protest most elites are now prepared to harm and arrest those who do so. And those ordering arrests are the same elite oligarchies who have also enabled, tax avoidance, money laundering and given privileged status to their various regime cronies.
Furthermore, they are the same elites who have allowed the pollution, ecological destruction of the planet and the supply of weapons to continue as long as they could extract profits from such activities.
The only hope for the future of humanity lies with those who have seen through the nationalist illusions and delusions promoted by the capitalist and pro-capitalist elites and are prepared to become non-sectarian internationalist and community activists. The campaign for a different non-hierarchical world badly needs further recruits. Maybe Covid19 and the accumulating list of war-crimes will bring more people to such campaigns. Until a critical mass of non-sectarian activists begin to adopt approaches which openly criticise and publicise the full effects of current capitalist mode of production, then all efforts at positive changes will be dissipated.
Such critical masses will be necessary to adequately influence wider sections of all societies into fully questioning the bourgeois profit-based version of scientific progress. Humanity needs to shake off the hypnotic effect of capitalist commodity inspired technological progress and entitlement (the things that got us to this mess) before it is too late. Unless this happens, then those of our children who survive the next five or six decades, are likely to find themselves on land-fill islands of desolation – entirely of our own making.
Roy Ratcliffe (March 2022)