More on Fascism in Ukraine & the ISO


Ukraine’s neo-Nazi opposition marching with a banner of Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator of Ukraine during World War II and vicious anti-Semite.

Just hours after Return to the Source published Beer Hall Putsch Leftism: Ukraine & the ISO, America’s least favorite Trotskyite organization double-dipped and released another article about the Euromaiden protests in Ukraine that recently drove President Viktor Yanukovich from power. This time, International Socialist Organization (ISO) member Sean Larson was joined by Trotskyite relic Alan Maass in an equally backwards piece, A political earthquake in Ukraine.

I don’t want to rehash the critique because all of the points made in yesterday’s essay still stand. I also want to be clear that Larson and Maass’ article was not a response to the essay on Return to the Source, given they were probably written concurrently. Instead, I want to add a few points more to the original critique based on some of the differences I noticed between the ISO’s original piece and the new one.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short: Fascism is suddenly a concern for the ISO

It didn’t occur to me to check, but Larson’s original piece from February 5 entitled, What’s at stake in Ukraine? includes almost no mention of fascism at all. The word appears twice, once as a descriptor of the street gang paramilitary group Right Sector (“neo-fascists”) and another time in a quote from a tiny socialist grouping in Ukraine. Larson’s original piece makes mention of the far-right several times, but commentators have written about Svboda’s intricate fascist and neo-Nazi connections since the party’s founding in 1991. The truth is, neither Larson nor the ISO as a whole wanted to consider the threat of fascism in Ukraine very seriously because it inconvenienced their uncritical pro-Euromaiden line. One can look at the plethora of articles written as soon as the Euromaiden protests began – or going back to 2012 with International Business Times writer Palash Ghosh – and find more responsible commentators clearly seeing the fascist writing on the wall.

Less than a month later, Larson and Maass dedicate damn near a third of their article to assessing “the threat of fascism,” using the word seven times. It’s hard to take their calls seriously when other leftists have warned about this trend for the last two months. It’s even harder to keep a straight face when reading their uncritical glowing praise of the ouster of President Yanukovich, which they extol as “scenes reminiscent of insurrections past.” After all, even Larson admits that the far-right and fascist coalition of parties in the parliament are now in power, with their roving band of criminal street gangs armed to the teeth and ready to enforce their policies with machine guns and billy clubs.

The ISO wants to claim an easy “revolution” in Ukraine before issuing predictable Trotskyite calls for a “Second Orange Revolution.” The leaders of the movement that the ISO wholeheartedly backed, knowing full well their political character and admitting it in the original article, are now in power prepared to implement something much worse than Yanukovich. Leftists around the world are better suited listening to Mao, who said, “Claim no easy victories.”

Trotskyism has no anti-fascist strategy

Rest assured, though, the ISO isn’t throwing in the towel just because the Euromaiden movement is led and controlled by neo-Nazis. Ever the naive optimists (some would say opportunists), Larson and Maas assure us, “it would be wrong to dismiss the protest movement wholesale because its presence.” They issue a call for the left to fight the new fascist menace in Ukraine, but their solutions are utopian bankrupt nonsense. Let’s quote them a bit and see just what they mean:

The fascists won’t be stopped by shoring up the repressive state apparatus around the oligarchs. On the contrary, the capitalist state typically uses such opportunities to limit the democratic rights of ordinary people, and especially to ramp up the repression of the left, thereby creating even more favorable conditions for the far right to grow.

Confronting the threat of fascism will require a grassroots effort involving independent workers’ organizations, trade unions and a strengthened left establishing an atmosphere of solidarity within the Maidan, in which the toxic message of hate will whither and die.

A-ha! We have a solution to the problem. Ukraine needs “a grassroots effort involving independent workers’ organizations, trade unions and a strengthened left.” But in the earlier article, even Larson admits that the Ukrainian left involved with the Euromaiden protests numbers “no more than 100” and were easily sidelined. In the essay published on Return to the Source, readers can find quotes from leftists who report no discernible impact by the Ukrainian left on the protests.

But the real bankruptcy of this blithe, rhetorical statement by Larson and Maass actually comes from themselves later in the article. Wanting desperately for the Euromaiden movement to not be what it is – a mass rebellion by the declassed petty bourgeoisie and criminal street elements, directed by chauvinistic oligarchs – both authors bend over backwards to try and prove that workers are playing a greater role in the protests. It must be hard finding evidence for their position because the best Larson and Maass can come up with is quoting a tiny federation of anarchists called the Autonomous Workers Union. In a weakly worded statement, one of the group’s spokespeople claims that there are more workers attending the protests but immediately backtracks, saying, “although the share of workers is still low, and when they are present, they are there as “Ukrainians” or “citizens,” not as “workers.””

Larson and Maass further undermine their own argument by quoting ROAR Magazine, which says the Ukrainian left has “no organization that can carry out planned strategic activities, nor media resources able to communicate to our position to the public, nor sufficient research capacity able to competently analyze our activities.”

In other words, Larson and Maass backed an uprising that everyone knew was controlled by fascists and not supported by workers just because there were big crowds of people in the streets. Now that the worst elements of the far-right are in-power, the two bewildered ISO writers call for the left to conjure up an independent anti-fascist movement that they themselves admit does not exist.

This is the problem with Trotskyism today, just as it was in the 1930s. For all of the criticisms of the Comintern’s line during the Third Period, the Trotskyites never offered a credible or workable strategy to combat fascism. Often praised by brand new students to Marxism, Trotsky’s work on fascism, Fascism: What it is and how to fight it, is barely comprehensible and wrong on a multitude of basic historical facts. In it, readers will find the same hollow calls for independent workers movements with no attention to material conditions. Like Trotsky, Larson and Maass say it with such conviction as if it was a novel idea on the left. Does any serious Marxist of any tendency disagree? The point is, with an eye towards the material conditions in Ukraine, this is not a possibility, even by their own admission. And their lack of a real strategy spreads confusion among the masses both in the US and Ukraine about how revolutions happen and how to defeat fascism.


Anyone interested in a more thorough critique of Trotsky’s non-strategy for defeating fascism ought to read, Trotsky’s struggle against fascism, according to one of his latter-day admirers. We won’t reinvent the wheel.

Posted on February 24, 2014, in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hello I am a young marxist from Uruguay and i would like to translate some of your post to our language for a new project that some comrades and me are starting that aims to spread Marxism. Thanks already

  1. Pingback: Beer Hall Putsch “Leftism”: Ukraine & the ISO | Toilers' Struggle

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