This quick blog post is a response to a discussion (actually a couple of discussions) I’ve had on Twitter, relating to Jeremy Corbyn, his associates in Stop the War, and their positions on Russia/Ukraine. My comment got a bit long so I have semi-polished it (not much) and am posting it here. Take it as provisional thinking aloud not as a definitive statement of position.
The context is the claim (e.g. by Tom Porter, James Bloodworth, Edward Lucas, Anne Applebaum, and the Telegraph) that Corbyn is excessively pro-Putin, a claim dismissed as a "smear" by his supporters.
I have updated it three times now, the first time to engage more closely with Corbyn's own position, the second time to add more links, and the third to correct a misreading I made of one of Corbyn's comments (see end of post for the correction).
On taking sides
First, I don’t think that it is possible to be entirely non-partisan, neutral and objective when looking at politics or geopolitics. My view is partial. It is shaped by the sources I read, including anarchist and leftist sources from the countries that I am interested in, e.g. the voices of Syrian revolutionaries, of the Ukrainian left, of dissidents in Russia.
I take a lot of effort to read sources carefully, to avoid unreliable sources, to triangulate information between different sources, and to track where bits of information come from. But there are sources which I trust more than others. I take the Western mainstream media with a pinch of salt – but I trust it more than I trust state media in countries such as Russiaor Iran with high levels of censorship and little press freedom. I trust left-wing papers more than I trust right-wing papers – but I prefer to consider (on the basis of evidence) the track record of integrity and authority of specific journalists and editors rather than assume that their ideology determines what they publish.
On Russia/Ukraine specifically, I do not side with the Ukrainian state, which I see as a capitalist liberal democracy dominated by patriotic neo-liberal capitalists who have an authoritarian, anti-union and social conservative streak (i.e. not much different from several other states in Europe). But I do defend them against the much larger, much more reactionary, much more powerful geopolitical force on their border, which is actively militarily violating their sovereignty.
Ideally, my position would be in the “third camp” – neither Kiev nor Moscow. But taking a neutral stance when the second most heavily armed country in the world is invading a small democracy is objectively to side with the bigger power.
I recognise that there are fascists on both sides, but it is clear to me that one side (the pro-Russian) is soaked full of fascists. Fascism is highly influential in the Kremlin, in Russia’s “hybrid army” and in the so-called People’s Republics of eastern Ukraine. Moscow supports and funds fascists in both eastern and western Europe. In Kiev, in contrast, fascist groups are currently in insurgency against the government.
Who has been the greater antagonist?