From the March-April 2023 issue of News & Letters
by Bob McGuire
After the first year of Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s all-out invasion, Vladimir Putin has exhausted the military resources he dedicated to what was supposed to be a triumphant three-day march on Kyiv. Losses of tanks and armored personnel carriers have been so severe that Russia clawed back a few hundred yards of territory around Bakhmut recently using only human waves of foot soldiers.
RUSSIAN SOLDIERS: PUTIN’S CANNON FODDER
Prisoners recruited out of jails and conscripts from minority regions under Russian control—who had been more shanghaied than drafted—were treated as cannon fodder. Soon NATO-supplied weapons, including German-built Leopard tanks and U.S.-built Abrams tanks, will be deployed. The toll of Russian soldiers killed has risen, at times exceeding 1,000 a day. After a year of fighting, more than 144,000 of them have died.
To avoid outright defeat, the alliance of nations that for 12 years has united to suppress the Syrian Revolution seems to be firming up again. The veto power of China and Russia stifled UN intervention against the bloody military attacks on peaceful demonstrations beginning in 2011 as Arab Spring spread. China, Russia and Iran—and in 2015 Russian air power alongside Iranian ground troops—were central to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad evading sanctions. Their scorched earth attacks on one lightly-armed rebel stronghold after another, beginning with Aleppo, kept the Free Syrian Army from toppling Assad. Yet resistance still continues in Idlib province.
Already in Ukraine drones supplied by Iran have supplemented Russia’s depleted stock of missiles in Putin’s campaign to freeze and starve the civilian population by destroying the electrical infrastructure. Now there are renewed threats that China will join North Korea in supplying lethal weaponry to Russia.
CHINA’S IMPERIALIST AMBITIONS
The meeting in Beijing between Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and China’s Xi Jinping, and Xi’s meeting in the spring with Putin in Moscow, may determine if the need to control its population at home pushes China toward more adventures abroad. Ending the autonomy of Hong Kong, once guaranteed for another 24 years, had a great deal to do with Xi attempting to eliminate dissent in the rest of China.
Merely holding a non-approved primary for opposition candidates in 2021 was so threatening to Xi that Hong Kong has 47 defendants on trial now. Invading Taiwan, in Xi’s mind, might add to his popularity in the same strange way that Reagan sending troops to tiny Grenada in 1983 increased his popularity.
Syria’s Assad regime faced little international pressure against its genocidal campaign to crush the revolution there. Economic sanctions were hardly sufficient to obstruct his rescuers. This was reminiscent of Spain in 1936-38, when Nazi Germany and fascist Italy backed Gen. Franco’s overthrow of the Republican government, but the UK and France offered at most words of condemnation. Anti-Franco opposition came from international solidarity of armed anarchists, Trotskyists, and socialists of all stripes coming to the defense of a bourgeois government against fascist attack.
At that time, it was no surprise that Communist Party members jumped to the front in resisting fascism, until reversing to protect Hitler after he and Stalin partitioned Poland in 1939.
We have come full circle, as figures on the right like Tucker Carlson and Matt Gaetz join too many self-identified leftists in identifying with oligarchies and state-capitalist butchers and disregarding the resistance’s defense of life and freedom.