Thursday, May 22, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Donetsk and Luhansk Latest Manifestations of Blanquist Actions, Ikhlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – What is taking place in Donetsk and Luhansk is not a civil war because it isn’t a struggle about the definition of the direction of all of Ukraine, Yevgeny Ikhlov argues. And it isn’t a fratricidal armed conflict because local elites are not providing the insurgent forces with support.

            Instead, he argues in an essay on yesterday, what is going on in southeastern Ukraine is “the clearest manifestation of what Marxists a century ago suspiciously called Blanquism,” the seizure of power by “professional revolutionaries who then using an ‘occupied state’ create mass support for themselves” (

            Ikhlov’s introduction of this term, one named for of August Blanqui (1805-1881) is important for an understanding of what is going on and of the broader directions of those who are involved directly or covertly in the setting up of the “peoples governments” in Donetsk and Luhansk.

            As he notes, Blanquism has long been viewed as “adventurism” in Europe, especially by Marxists many of whom in the form of Leninism adapted much of his strategy in their own activities. But this political trend has “turned out to be effective in Asia and Africa,” as reflected in the statement of Mao Zedong who famously said ‘power comes out of the barrel of a gun.”

            And the Russian commentator suggests that using the term to analyze what is happening in southeastern Ukraine will allow observers to decide “where from the point of view of culture, the Donbas is situated.” Is it “closer to Eastern Europe,” as many have assumed, “or is it” as seems increasingly likely “closer to Cuba and Bolivia”?

            Ikhlov argues that what is happening in southeastern Ukraine should not be defined as a civil war because the Donbas activists are not seeking “the right to define the future of the whole country and of the whole civic nation.” Instead, they are seeking to create a new entity, “Novorossiya,” either as an independent state or to force Ukraine to confederalize.

            The Moscow commentator says that recent events demonstrate as well that what is occurring there is not “a fratricidal armed conflict” lie the one in Northern Ireland. “The weak support of the new states by local elites” is clear evidence that is not the case.

            “Any movement for the rights of ethno-linguistic or ethno-confessional communities always is based on the intellectual elites and the support of the middle class,” he points out. In the Ukrainian case, “it has become clear that a ‘Novorossiisk’ sub-ethnos comparable in terms of consolidation with the French of Canadian Quebec, the Flemings of Belgian or even the autonomists of Northern Italy does not exist.”

            Nor he argues is this a Vandee, a counter-revolutionary uprising.  That has already happened in Ukraine in the case of “the March ‘Russian Spring’ when those taking part in meetings carried portraits of [the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovich.”

            Having cleared the intellectual field of these other definitions of the Donbas, Ikhlov suggests that Blanquism is a far more adequate term, especially given its recent social revolution aspects. And he points to the 1918-1919 cases of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic and the Bavarian Soviet republic.

            In those cases, he suggests, a city or region rose in revolt and sought to spread its ideas to the population. Had these places bordered with Soviet Russia, he continues, “they would have declared their plans to join it or to enter into a military-political union with it” and might have survived.

            They weren’t and they didn’t, Ikhlov notes, but the events in Donetsk and Luhansk show that the Blanquist ideas which animated them remain very much alive.

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