Ukraine: how the U.S. empire uses propaganda to turn people into monsters
The atomic bomb isn’t the most powerful weapon that the U.S. imperialists have ever used. There’s an even stronger tool that it constantly uses to inflict violence, and that tool is propaganda. It doesn’t merely cause harm to the people it targets, it turns them into monsters. Monsters who are willing to kill their fellow human beings for the benefit of American capital, and believe they’re doing so for a righteous cause.
In Ukraine, the imperialists have done this by indoctrinating their favored ethnic group to hate Russians. Which is an absurd project on its face, because “Ukrainians” aren’t truly a distinct ethnic group from Russians, and “Ukraine” isn’t truly a separate nation from Russia. Ukraine is inextricably tied to Russia, with their connection going back centuries. Ukraine is where the concept of Russia began, with the three identities of Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians having originated in the Kievan Rus a millennium ago. This is indicated by the conclusion of Serhii Plokhy in Cambridge University Press that “There is little doubt in my mind that the Kyivan-era project involving the construction of a single identity had a profound impact on the subsequent identities of all the ethnic groups that constituted the Kyivan state.” Whatever cultural differences exist between the two countries, they’re within the same family tree, and a relatively young one as far as cultural lineages go. The borders which make up Ukraine as we know it today are historically recent, and not reflective of this reality of how Russians as a nation are indigenous to the lands within those borders. When Putin says Russians and Ukrainians are one people, he’s right.
The worldview the imperialists have pushed upon the Ukrainians says that this history doesn’t matter. That Russians are not only separate from the vulgar and exclusionary concept of what modern Ukraine’s government claims “Ukraine” means, but are historic threats to the country’s livelihood. After Ukraine’s borders were drawn up amid the Russian Revolution, the imperialists began seeking to manufacture fissures among these two arbitrarily different identities of Russian and Ukrainian. They portrayed the regional nuances in their languages and cultures as an unbridgeable gap, as a fundamental discrepancy in values and character where the U.S.-favored Ukrainian group was portrayed as superior. Thus began the campaign to Balkanize Russia, which was founded upon the idea that Ukraine isn’t part of Russia.
This depended on the fabrication of an atrocity story, where Russia was accused of committing genocide against Ukrainians. After the 1932 famine—which was part of a historic cycle of famines that after then became broken by Stalin’s agricultural collectivization—the Nazi propagandists made up an account of Stalin having deliberately sought to starve Ukrainians. Even though in reality it was the petty-bourgeois kulaks who had created the famine by reacting to the class struggle through destroying food out of sheer greed, some amorphous supposed flaw in Stalin’s collectivization policy was named as the cause. The lie was picked up by William Randolph Hearst, the U.S. media monopolist who had been instrumental in manufacturing consent for Washington’s initial global imperialist projects over three decades prior. From there, it became part of the worldwide anti-communist orthodoxy that the Russians had engineered a famine in Ukraine.
You only have to look at the sources behind this lie to know the agenda behind it: projection. In addition to Nazi Germany of course having been a genocidal power, the United States had by that point used crop sabotage as a crucial weapon in defeating the continent’s indigenous peoples, and it was maintaining a eugenics and concentration camp program which would directly inspire Hitler’s atrocities. Since then, Washington has continued to use mass starvation and other war crimes to subdue the nations which disobey it, with U.S. sanctions currently creating a famine in Afghanistan. Yet Ukraine’s petty bourgeoisie has been eager to hold on to this narrative about how the communists are the ones who commit genocide. And with the Soviet Union’s dissolution, this narrative has evolved into a general hatred towards Russians, which provides the founding myth for the modern Ukrainian fascist project that these modern kulaks have acted as the social base for.
The “Holodomor” is the Big Lie that served as the foundation for all the other lies the post-coup Kiev leaders have pushed to justify their proxy war against Russia: the idea that Putin annexed Crimea out of some imperialist drive rather than realpolitik in response to NATO’s expansion; the war crimes throughout the Donbass and broader Ukrainian conflicts that have been blamed on Putin, but that lack real evidence of Russian culpability; the narrative that Russia intervened this year unprovoked, when Kiev was clearly planning to invade the newly independent Donbass republics. (Kiev didn’t even recognize their legitimacy, and it had used extreme violence to try to subdue them beforehand.) The post-coup governments have been preparing for the current war propaganda campaign from 2014 onwards, aggressively promoting the Holodomor and other anti-Soviet narratives while censoring communist speech which would dispute these lies.
The regime has gone so far as to portray Ukraine’s World War II Nazi collaborators as heroes who “liberated” Ukraine from communism, and has criminalized the challenging of this perception towards the country’s “founding fathers.” What’s been happening in Ukraine this last decade is a nation-building project, where the U.S. empire is purging every trace of Ukraine’s Russian heritage and constructing an artificial new “Ukraine” which exists in a vacuum within time. The last thousand years of deep ties to Russia no longer exist in this view, the only thing that’s ever existed is “Ukraine” as the fascists want us to understand it. With every new atrocity story, another facet is added to the mythology that the Ukrainian nationalists have built around Russia. And the more of a rationale exists for the atrocities that these nationalists themselves carry out.
The pogroms, beatings of political dissidents, shootings of ethnically or politically disfavored individuals, and other vigilante or paramilitary violence within post-coup Ukraine wouldn’t be possible without the government, or the fascist historical narrative the government puts forth. Ukraine’s political and military structure, infiltrated on every level by neo-Nazis, has fostered an environment increasingly resembling Nazi Germany. A dystopia in which the Army itself has come to use the slogan “Glory to Ukraine,” the rallying cry of the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. “There are records showing that during the court hearings against OUN's leader Stepan Bandera in 1936, his supporters were accompanying the slogan 'Glory to Ukraine' with a hand-throwing fascist-style salute,” said Oleksandr Zaitsev, a historian from the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, when the Army began using the slogan in 2018. As much as the West’s liberal media insists that “Slava Ukraini” is an innocent thing to chant, and that backing Ukraine in the conflict is a morally simple matter of backing “sovereignty,” the sinister reality of the situation grows ever more apparent.
In all likelihood, Ukraine will lose the war, and the regime won’t be able to attack the eastern republics which have successfully fought for freedom from this new fascism. But the myth of a century-long Russian victimization of Ukrainians will remain, and the imperialists will try to use it to foster a neo-Nazi resurgence within the country. Let’s hope the denazification process is extremely thorough.
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