A few observations on this horrible mess, two weeks on

The right wing is profiting from the frenzy around Putin’s attack on Ukraine. It’s time for more whataboutery


1) Amazing how hegemonic liberal niceties have collapsed into their alleged opposite. From “art (or sports/science/etc.) knows no boundaries” to banning anything remotely Russian from the public sphere. From “Putin is a dictator ordinary Russians don’t want”, to “making the Russians pay”. This phenomenal U-turn is – I suspect – designed to legitimize sanctions that will turn the life of ordinary Russians into hell. This is the reason we hear less and less about the existing Russian anti-war movements. “They are insignificant” is the implication, and only turning the screws on ordinary Russians will somehow force them to overthrow Putin (which it won´t – quite the opposite as history shows).

2) The war is already transforming itself into a generalized attack on anything remotely left-wing or pro-worker. I follow developments in several countries – Germany, Cyprus, the UK, Greece, the US – and it’s becoming obvious: it’s not enough to condemn Putin’s war, you also have to accept that NATO has absolutely nothing to do with this mess. If you don’t, a barrage of abuse ensues. There will be – already is – a large-scale attack on living standards. I know that in Cyprus, for instance, which imports most of its grain from Ukraine and Russia, reserves are only good for 70 days. Who do you think is going pay for this mess?

3) The ferocity with which this is achieved is enabled by the total blackout on any objective information about this war. All invading armies commit war crimes and Russia is no exception. But all of a sudden – while the bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan “does not constitute a war crime”, Hamas is using “human shields” in Gaza – we are ordered to accept anything coming from the Ukrainian MoD and its Tik Tok accounts at face value. My Facebook feed is already swamped with all kinds of sponsored adds to support the Ukrainian military or join its “International Legion”. And big tech suspending hate speech standards for violence against Russians really tells you something. This is scary.

4) The mirror image of the demonization of the left, is the sanctification of actors previously condemned by liberals as followers of Trumpism. Look at this asshole Boris Johnson, now a hero of the free world. Do you think sanctions by the EU Commission against Poland for its misogynist abortion laws are forthcoming, now that said government has been declared a defender of the free world? Turns out it wasn’t Putin who invented the European and American far right after all. This far right is feeling quite comfortable at this moment. Its ideology is by definition demagogical, and it can switch from an idolizing Putin as preserver of “traditional values” into claiming the expansion of the military-industrial complex as its own political triumph (as the AfD have done in Germany) in no-time.

5) Also quite scary: the amount of foreign fighters streaming into the Ukraine. Have you seen interviews with these people? They are standard sociopaths who proclaim “WWIII has already started”, and quite a large percentage of them – by admissions of Western intelligence services – are white supremacists. Ukraine is becoming Europe’s Afghanistan, a place to gain combat experience and the beginning of a potential blowback in the future, 9/11-style.

6) Say what you will about the pitfalls of professional “high” journalism but the proliferation of social media on the one hand, and the decline of journalistic standards on the other, combined with the dominance of clickbaiting has enabled a standard oligarch-controlled crook like Zelenskyy – a guy who in all seriousness calls for World War III – to rise to a darling of public opinion. Are people even seriously considering what the implication of this idiot`s demands are? Stop thinking that clickbaiting is the key to reaching a wider audience. Start reading books again, maybe.

7) Race as an ideological common sense factor legitimizing imperialism is definitely still a thing, even more so today, despite all the superficial changes that supposedly occurred in the last decade, and despite the alleged dominance of academia by “cultural Marxism”. On the contrary, I suspect many of those who built careers in cultural studies – completely divorced from any analysis of imperialism – have nothing useful to say at this point, even in their own terms.

8) I encourage everyone to engage in whataboutery and point out the amazing gap between sympathies for Ukrainian refugees on the one hand, and the neglect shown towards victims of Western-supported Saudi genocide in Yemen or Western-backed Israeli ethnic cleansing in Palestine. “Whataboutery” is not a bad thing. It’s fairly standard Marxist practice (at least since Lukacs wrote “History and Class Consciousness”) and also a typical poststructuralist straw man taken up by online people meant to shame you and supposed to encourage you to look at things in their own context (bit like cultural relativism). Fine. But if you don’t – in addition – consider how things are somehow connected to each other (like “what about?”) then how are you supposed to come to any practical conclusion on how to fight the status quo? Well, you´re not supposed to. My point is not to for us to collapse to an anti-Ukrainian-refugee cynicism. On the contrary, all refugees should be treated equally well. Period.

9) It’s incredible how so many leading voices in power are not talking about de-escalation at this point. It’s almost as if they had been preparing for this for years. It’s almost as if capitalism is somehow not a peaceful system of endless prosperity. A left that simply shouts “redistribution” and “butter, not guns” is dead in the water. We need more, not less analysis of the state and imperialism. If you think talking about those things will alienate your potential liberal allies and prevent you from joining coalition governments with them, well it looks now – given the steep rise in military budgets everywhere and extension of coal energy – that your green and liberal allies were not taking “less divisive” things like climate change prevention and anti-racism seriously to begin with.