(Ukraine) What They’re Saying On “The Left”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one more reason not to trust “the Left” on anything, including matters relating to Jewish politics and Israel. Reading Katrina vanden Heuvel op-ed here and listening to her on a long segment at the NYC based Brian Lehrer show on NPR. The key problem is the mono-causal and unipolar view of the world and world politics. The views expressed by her reflect the unipolar world that she herself rejects. Also reflected is a longstanding pro-Russian orientation at the Nation. The nub is that only America or its interests and allies act, the rest of the world reacts. That’s the overall and simplistic conception modeling the response to any crisis situation in the world be it NATO and Russia or Israel and Palestine.

Vanden Heuvel wants to return to “intense negotiations,” by which she means a return to the Minsk Protocols which Putin himself tore up. In this view, at the heart of the problem is NATO expansion. That’s why Putin invaded Ukraine, in this view of things. Attached to that, she called Ukraine a failed state. In a conspiratorial vein, she insisted that democratically elected President Zelensky is a television character, a stooge of Ukrainian oligarchs and far right, neo-Nazi forces, and not “his own man.” Pushed back on this latter point, she claimed that it was not her intention to impugn on his “background.”

She did not respond well to questions concerning [1] a raft of speeches by Putin going back to 2007 laying out a revanchist imperial visions, [2] why one would think that the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would not have been gobbled up by Russia in the process without NATO protection. She seemed to take Putin at his word when he said that Russia did not plan to occupy Ukraine, [3] concerning how NATO was actually threatening the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, [4] the strange bed-fellow problem in which the Nation sidles up to the America First, the racist right, and Tucker Carlson, whom she claimed is going to run for president and to whom she referred by the first ” name.

The analysis does not hold up well in comparison to the sense of urgency coming out of Ukraine and also Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland. As part of a large-nation orientation, there was not a word on “the left” represented by the Nation about liberal democracy, the rule of law, or, to go back one hundred years, the minority question in Europe, being the rights of small peoples to sovereign self-determination.

To this post, I’m adding these items:

–this statement which you can read here by the DSA condemning the Russian invasion, the onus of which it places on NATO expansion.

–this interview with John Mearsheimer who does the same here in this interview at the New Yorker. “If there had been no decision to move NATO eastward to include Ukraine, Crimea and the Donbass would be part of Ukraine today, and there would be no war in Ukraine.” He also says that Ukraine does not have the right to chart it’s own destiny in relation to its much bigger and stronger neighbor. “It’s not imperialism; this is great-power politics,” he says, suggesting that realist political theory understands neither Ukrainian or Russian “idealism” and ideology as one type causal factor in international politics nor the political rights of small nations and peoples.

–a biting critique of the western left from the Ukrainian left, represented by Taras Bilous. which you can read here

–this critique of Noam Chomsky by Syrian leftist Yassin al-Haj Saleh, which you can read here. The analysis goes back to what Chomsky said basically in support of the Syrian regime during the Civil War. With their singular focus on “America,” theoretical schemas that are “rigid” and “neat” obscure complex local nuance and brute human suffering, including the use of poison gas on civilian populations as a weapon of war.

–this interview with 20th c. Russian history scholar Stephen Kotkin here at the New Yorker critical of line of though maintaining that NATO and the West are the real problem behind the Russian invasion of and war against Ukraine.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to (Ukraine) What They’re Saying On “The Left”

  1. dmf says:

    she’s a cold war dino and hardly representative of the left today

  2. hedgehoghr says:

    in response to dmf–she represents the far left progressives to a T, which is why they are so deadly awful
    Zachary–great piece–absolutely on targe

Leave a Reply to dmf Cancel reply