Thursday, 24 April 2014

Ukraine: Empire and Crisis

The Ukraine crisis rumbles on.  Russia's involvement in eastern Ukraine is apparent at many levels: pressure on the new government, the likely use of special forces as agents provocateurs in spawning the take-overs of public buildings and police installations, the alleged build-up of military units on the border.

In addition to the basic fact that the new Kiev government is unelected, the element that is missing - and it's a pretty large element - in so much Western reportage of what is happening is the American/EU/NATO context or framework.  The way the issue is reported nearly always suggests, mostly by what is not said, that 'we', or the West, or major Western institutions and alliances, have had no hand in the escalation.  This simply is untrue.  The part played by NATO and the United States may be different from that played by Russia, but it is substantial, and understanding the situation requires a sense of that involvement and complicity.  Here are two pieces by distinguished writers, first published on CounterPunch.

Patrick Cockburn is a younger brother of Alexander Cockburn, and one of the most distinguished foreign and war correspondents alive.  He is not a leftist in the way his brother was, but he is clear-eyed, brave, and writes as well as Alexander did.  In particular, his coverage of the Iraq invasion, wars and occupation have been brilliant, but Patrick also served as a Moscow correspondent for the London Independent back in the 1990s.  This background serves him well now:

Ukraine: From Crisis to Catastrophe

Arno Mayer is one of America's most distinguished historians.  Now professor emeritus at Princeton, he has authored two particularly famous books.  The Persistence of the Ancien Regime is an account of what the French Revolution left untouched, and of the forces of reaction which survived it.  Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? is one of the greatest and most devastating accounts of the Holocaust.   Here he is on Russia, Ukraine, and the West.

The Ukraine Imbroglio and the Decline of the American Empire


Badiou on Ukraine

Alain Badiou is one of France's greatest living philosophers.  Of the generation of the famous structuralists and poststructuralists (Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida), Badiou seemed - at least in the English-speaking world - for long to be overshadowed by them.  But in recent years his reputation has soared, and the amount of his work being translated into English has grown exponentially, including materials reaching back to his early and primary writings.  This work includes books on ontology, mathematics, politics, political activism and drama.

Badiou, though now retired, continues to write seriously and to speak out fearlessly.  Particularly refreshing is the fact that he has never disavowed his far-left positions, and so now stands out in the morass of contemporary French philosophy and political activism for his intransigence and integrity (though in a context dominated by the likes of Bernard-Henri Levy - memorably described by Perry Anderson as a 'crass booby' - it might be hard not to).  Here is an article from the Verso website, where he discusses insurrection in regard to Ukraine, amongst other places: