Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oligarchs, democrats, and Ukraine

Louis Proyect has a depth of expertise on divergent strands of Marxism that I can only dream of. When he speaks of "Baathist Socialists" you can bet your bottom dollar he knows what he means, whereas I have no clue what the difference is between a Baathist and non-Baathist socialist.

At least part of the reason for that is the fact that while Louis was spending a career studying the working classes I was a dumbfuck schmuck enjoying the pleasures of the shop floor.

Nevertheless we have each self-identified as "Marxists" of one stripe or another. (and at this juncture I want to tip my hat to the fact that Louis would be able to not only identify each of those stripes, but could provide the complete history of that stripe and how it split from other stripes and which revisionists and revanchists stabbed the other stripes in their running-dog backs etc.)

But Louis constantly reveals himself as a true mensch with his vast knowledge of pop culture. How many Marxists of any stripe are mourning the passing of Devo guitarist Bob Casale?

Louis also manages to throw a new light on certain certitudes about current events. His recent post about Ukraine is a prime example. Who knew that one of the prime backers of supposed right-wing Ukraine President Yanukovich uses the same beltway PR folks as Senator John McCain? That's a story well worth reading.

It's also a story that brings to mind certain certitudes I've harboured for a long time. Should we be surprised that billionaires of any stripe have more in common with other billionaires than they do with non-billionaires who may share some of their other markers? Does a Ukrainian billionaire have more in common with Ukrainian factory hands or with Russian/US/Mexican billionaires?

Does not an unemployed black autoworker have more in common with unemployed white autoworkers than with middle-class black "activists?"

Does not a queer welfare recipient have more in common with straight welfare recipients than with well funded middle-class gay activists?

I recall a winter night many years ago at the end of a second shift when a bunch of us walked out of Frankel Steel with layoff notices in our pockets. Black, white, couple of yellow guys, a few Pakis... at that moment we had way more in common with one another than we had with the black or white or yellow folks for whom life was merrily rolling along in the subdivisions on the other side of the 401.

I don't know what the right read is of the disaster unfolding in Kiev. Is there a Ukrainian national spirit emerging that puts the unemployed Ukrainian and the queer Ukrainian and the billionaire Ukrainian and the left and the right and the politically indifferent Ukrainian all on the same page at this moment in history?

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