January 7, 2018

Anti-Communist Ukrainian Nationalists Joined Nazis


Part One and Part Two of this series have exposed the falsehoods in a recent film and book about the collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union during the early 1930s. This article and next (Part Three and Part Four will discuss who the liars are and what they are up to. Part Five will outline what really happened, and, along with Part Six point to the right lessons of the Soviet experience for workers today. 

Another major propaganda effort is underway to spread anti- communism. Conquest's book, and the Ukrainian nationalists' phony film, are only the beginning. In New York State the Department of Education has put together a curriculum on the "Ukrainian Famine" which will be taught as part of the "Holocaust Studies" course for High School students. Another curriculum has been printed for Illinois High Schools. 1 

A "Ukrainian Famine Commission" in Washington, DC, funded by Congress two years ago, has begun holding "hearings" on the famine in many U.S. cities, starting in Detroit in November 1986. The Commission is headed by James Mace, the leading non-Ukrainian "expert" on the famine (previous articles in this series showed that several bourgeois historians have attacked Mace's fraudulent "scholarship"). These hearings are aimed to get the story of the "terror-famine" into the mass media and beyond. 

Involved in all of these efforts is the Harvard University Ukrainian Research Institute (URI), funded by the Ukrainian National Association, the largest of the exile groups. The URI publishes its own journal, monographs (short research pamphlets) and books. Its aim is to make the cause of Ukrainian nationalism "respectable."

The Ukraine 

First, a note about the Ukraine. The Ukraine and Russia have always [until the past few years -- note added 1996] been part of a single country. The word "ukraina" means "on the border or outskirts" -- the far limit of Russia. Russian history begins with the Princedom of Kiev, the major city of the Ukraine. During the Middle Ages, the political center of Russia shifted to the north, first to Moscow and then, in the 18th century, to St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad). The languages spoken in the Ukraine and in the north (Russia proper) gradually diverged somewhat. By the 19th century a separate Ukrainian literature had come into existence. The languages are, however, still very closely related, like the different dialects of Italian or German. 

There are several million Ukrainian immigrants in the US and Canada. Many are Jews, fleeing the intense anti-Semitism that has been characteristic of the Ukraine for centuries. Most of the rest were peasants, among whom feelings of "nationhood" were nil. Many emigrated around the turn of the century to take up farming in the Mid-West and in the prairie provinces of Canada, where all-Ukrainian towns still exist. Others came to work in US industry, like millions of other European workers. The old Socialist and Communist parties of the US and Canada had many Ukrainian members; the pro-Moscow CPUSA has long had a Ukrainian Workers' organization. 

Of those who arrived in the West after World War II we may distinguish three groups. Most numerous were peasants who were sent west (i.e. from the Ukraine to Germany) by the Nazis during the war to work as slave laborers. Others were soldiers who had fought in German-formed military units, or in forces formed by pro-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists. Many of these were forced to do so; many others volunteered. The third group were confirmed nationalists, mainly urban intellectuals, almost all Nazi collaborators. 

It's hard to say what proportion of those people outside the former Soviet Union who are of Ukrainian descent would identify themselves as nationalists, but it is certainly a minority. Millions, for example, are Jews, who well recall the vicious anti-Semitism of the Ukrainian nationalists. Many other Ukrainians are anti-nationalist, who know that the Nationalists killed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians with the Nazis' help. 

Still others are pro-Soviet -- in essence, a competing form of nationalism -- since after the Bolshevik Revolution the Ukraine has been built up and bourgeois Ukrainian culture flourishes. The younger generation, even of nationalist parents, are increasingly assimilated and care little or nothing for the old issues. But the active, anti-Communist nationalists are the leaders of the non-Jewish Ukrainian community. This group includes many former Nazi collaborators. They dominate the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and most social and other non-Jewish Ukrainian organizations. 
Ukrainian Nationalists -- Enemy of Ukrainian Peasants and Workers 

The film Harvest of Despair describes the period of the Bolshevik Revolution and ensuing Civil War (1917-1921) this way: 

"Ukrainians grasp the chance to reclaim their independence after 200 years of Russian domination. Kiev, Ukraine's ancient capital, is once again the seat of government ... History has taught Ukraine that freedom has a price. The people prepared to defend their national republic against all invaders... In four ensuing years of chaos, Ukrainians fight Lenin's Red Army, Denikin's White Army, Germans, Poles."

This gives the impression that the Ukraine had once been an independent state, with its capital at Kiev; that it was then captured by Russia; and that most Ukrainians had a sense of national consciousness. 

The truth is far otherwise. The Ukraine was never an independent state. Even authors very sympathetic to the Ukrainian nationalists admit this. 3 When Kiev was last a "capital," it was capital of Russia, up to the Mongol invasion of the 1200s. The whole Ukraine came under Russian rule in 1797; before that, it was ruled by the Polish lords. 

Ukrainians were not unified. During the Civil War many -- probably most -- politically active Ukrainians supported the Bolsheviks (Communists). The Germans overthrew the nationalist "Rada" (Council) and set up a landlord regime under Skoropadsky as their puppet. Petlyura, a former Rada member, fought Skoropadsky and the Bolsheviks too. The "socialist" Ukrainian nationalists, praised by the film, got little mass support in fact: 

"[Their] remarkably swift defeat was a consequence of the character of the nationalist movement. Nationalism was the primary concern only for a group of intellectuals and semi-intellectuals, such as village teachers, minor bureaucrats, and journalists ... the commitment of the peasants to nationalism was dubious. In the beginning of 1919 the peasants did not care enough to defend a Ukrainian government in Kiev." 

The Ukrainian nationalists were grossly racist, especially against Jews: Petlyura, who based his hope on foreign recognition and help, had to repudiate pogroms [anti-Jewish terror campaigns] and he even named a Jew 'minister of Jewish affairs.' However, he did little to prevent anti-Semitic outbreaks, and his followers well understood that his injunctions against 'excesses' were meant exclusively for foreign audiences. The nationalists habitually depicted their enemies [i.e. the Bolsheviks] as Jewish and thereby did a great deal to prepare the soil for what was to come. 

We should recall that the Nazi-appointed head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the U.S. and Canada, "Metropolitan Mstyslav," who appears in Harvest of Despair, was Petlyura's nephew and personal adjutant (military assistant). 

Only the Bolsheviks fought racism, as the anti-communist American historian Peter Kenez reveals: 

"Ultimately the Jews did learn. It was Soviet rule, which in spite of its economic policies, in spite of occasional pogroms carried out by some ill-disciplined Red troops. offered the best chance for survival. On occasion, an entire Jewish settlement would follow the retreating Red soldiers ... .it was clear to everyone that Soviet leaders were willing to fight against pogroms and punish the offenders.

The Ukrainian Bolsheviks formed a separate Republic, which later freely joined the USSR. Since only the Bolsheviks stood for "land to the tiller [i.e. to the peasants]," the Communists had far more support among the peasantry than any of the Ukrainian nationalist groups. The nationalists were defeated by their own reactionary policies, which the Ukrainian peasants rejected. It failed to win the peasants owing to its failure to espouse the cause not merely of social revolution, but of social reform on any significant scale -- a failure frankly and repeatedly admitted by Vinnichenko, the most honest of its leaders. Vinnichenko conceded that the peasants so hated the nationalist Rada they even rejected its attempts to impose the Ukrainian language and culture.
Nationalism Leads to Fascism 

After their defeat in the Civil War, the leading Ukrainian nationalists fled to Western Europe. Some went to Poland, which obtained a large Ukrainian population when it took over a big part of Western Russia after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Polish government suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture, but permitted some anti-Communist Ukrainian nationalist activity. 

During the 1930s most Ukrainian nationalists came to support the Nazis, as the force most likely to "liberate" the Ukraine from the USSR. When nazi Germany conquered Poland in September 1939, they set up training camps for Ukrainian nationalists, to prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Here is part of an account of a torture school run in Nazi- occupied Poland for fascists of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in late 1939: 

"'The Ukrainian commandant of the entire [Ukrainian training] unit was Lieutenant Vil'nyy,' wrote Kosakivs'kyy, 'whose real name was Mykola Lebid. The curriculum included drills, intelligence and counterintelligence training, and interrogation techniques [i.e. torture], but emphasized "exercises in the hardening of hearts." 

"At sundown," recalled Kosakivs'kyy, "Kruger, Rosenbaum [the two German Secret Police, or Gestapo, leaders of the school], Lebid and a few students would go to Zakopane, enter some Jewish home on the way, grab a Jew, and bring him to the Unit. One evening, late in November or early in December 1939, they returned with a young Jew. In the presence of Ukrainian seniors,including myself, Kruger and Rosenbaum, fortified with alcohol, proceeded with their demonstration of the proper methods of interrogation." 

"Seeking to induce the innocent Jew to confess that he had raped an 'Aryan' woman, the German officers beat and tortured him, using their fists, a sword and iron bars. When he was bloody from head to toe, they applied salt and flame to his wounds. The broken man then confessed his fictional crimes, but that was not the end." 

"'Thereupon,' Kosakivs'kyy, continues, 'he was taken to the corridor of the house and the 'co-eds' (three women members of the unit) were called in. In their presence, Rosenbaum beat the Jew again with an iron pipe and Lebid too assisted manually in that 'heroic action.'... We learned afterwards that the tortured man was stripped naked, stood-up in front of the school as a 'sentry' and doused with water in heavy frost.'" 

"Kosakivs'kyy and his friend protested to Lebid the next day, but the commandant told them bluntly that 'it was the duty of every member of the OUN to show the Germans that his nerves are just as tough as a German's and that the heart of any nationalist is just as hard as steel.' Such 'practical exercises' continued unabated..."

When the Nazis invaded the USSR in June 1941, some Ukrainian peasants in the Western Ukraine initially welcomed the Nazis because of their resentment against the forced collectivization of the peasantry during the 1930s or after Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland in 1939 [after the Nazi invasion of Poland was completed, and it became clear that the Western allies were not going to fight the Nazis -- the period known as the "phony war" -- the Soviet Union re-occupied the part of Russia which Poland had taken from it in the Treaty of Riga in 1920]. According to Dallin, however, the extent of this welcoming of the Nazis has been greatly exaggerated. 8 In the Eastern (Soviet) Ukraine, however, the Ukrainian nationalists, who had first tried to win peasant support by promising to abolish the collective farms, had to abandon that line as "the only way to avoid alienating much of the East Ukrainian youth." 9 A decade after collectivization,the youth in the Ukraine were overwhelmingly pro-Soviet. 

The Ukrainian fascists formed an army that was alternately used and repressed by the Nazis, who formed their own "Galician" SS Division from among Eastern (non-Soviet) Ukrainians, and the "Roland" and "Nightingale" detachments for special terrorist action against the Ukrainian population itself. 

However, the most successful Communist partisan movements -- those of the Ukrainians Oleksii Fyodorov and Sidor Kovpak -- were also made up of Ukrainians and operated in the Ukrainian country- side. These were the largest and most successful anti-Nazi resistance movements in Europe, and were led and manned by Communist Ukrainians! 10 By the middle of the war, the Germans had thoroughly alienated even the more anti-Soviet Ukrainian peasantry by their brutality. 

Kovpak's Red Ukrainian guerillas had to fight Ukrainian fascist troops. Despite a few conflicts, the Ukrainian nationalists sided with the Nazis during WWII and were solidly behind Hitler again by 1944. They continued guerilla warfare against the Soviets in the hills of Western Ukraine until about 1952. During the last stages of this fight, the C.I.A. dropped supplies to fascist nationalists troops fighting the Soviet forces within the Soviet Union. 11 

The Ukrainian nationalist groups were always made up mainly of intellectuals. Few workers and peasants joined them. An anti- Communist American scholar sympathetic to the nationalists admits "Ukrainian nationalism ... was unable to penetrate the mass of the population to any extent. 12 
Capitalist Rule: "ABC -- Anything But Class" 

This, then, is the history of Ukrainian nationalism. It demonstrates the universal truth, that nationalism leads to anti- communism and, eventually, to fascism. This is logical. National- ism is a bourgeois ideology. "Nationalist movements throughout the world have usually been the work of the middle class." 13 

Encouraging workers (or peasants, most of whom are also workers) to unite according to ethnic, color, or linguistic similarities, means putting them under the leadership of the bourgeoisie of that ethnic or linguistic group. Capitalists have the most to gain from capitalism -- wealth and status -- and the most to lose from egalitarian communism, and so are overwhelmingly anti- communist. When communism threatens their privileges, they turn inevitably to fascist repression against the working class, whom they exploit to get their wealth and to whom the goals of communism are attractive. 

Only communism encourages workers to become class-conscious -- to see that they must ally with workers of all other ethnic, linguistic, racial, etc., groups against their own bosses and bourgeois nationalists. The bosses will do anything to prevent this. Their rule is "ABC -- Anything But Class:" -- to mislead workers into uniting along any lines but those of class, so that they can be exploited. 

The Hoax About the Ukrainian Famine of the 1930s


1. The University of the State of New York. The State Education Department, Bureau of Curriculum Development. Case Studies: Persecution/Genocide. The Human Rights Series. Volume III.I (Albany, NY: 1986). Of the 162 pages of text, the "Ukrainian Famine" takes up 142. For Illinois see Myron B. Kuropas, with the assistance of the United States Ukraine Famine Commission, Forced Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933; Curriculum and Resource Guide for Educators. Both of these curricula repeat the ultra-right wing Ukrainian nationalist falsifications without any alternate viewpoints whatsoever. 

2. Transcript of the film and panel discussion, p. 8 (Firing Line Special Edition: 'Harvest of Despair', broadcast September 24, 1986. Southern Educational Communications Association, Box 5966, Columbia, SC 29250). 

3. John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism. Second edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), p. 7. 

4. Peter Kenez, Civil War in South Russia, 1919-1923: The Defeat of the Whites (Berkeley, CA: Univ. Cal. Press, 1977), p. 146; p. 147 (emphasis added). 

5. E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1: 1917-1923 (Pelican pb edition), p. 296. 

6. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had concluded a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August, 1939. A secret clause in that pact stated that the USSR would occupy the part of Poland that had been part of Russia until 1918 (Galicia and Volhynia). In 1940 the USSR demanded and got two predominantly Ukrainian territories (Bessarabia, also called Moldavia, and Bukovina) which Rumania had taken over in 1918. These predominantly Ukrainian areas which belonged to Poland or Rumanian before 1939-40 are called the "Western Ukraine." They had all been under Soviet control for less than two years at the time of the Nazi invasion of the USSR which began on June 22, 1941. It was in these areas that some peasants initially greeted Nazi troops as "liberators," and where the Ukrainian nationalists had most success in recruitment. 

7. Joe Conason, "To Catch a Nazi", Village Voice (New York City), February 11, 1986, p. 19. Camp leader Mykola Lebid was one of the chief Ukrainian nationalists in the OUN, worked for the Nazis in the Soviet Union throughout the occupation, and fled to Germany with them at the end of WWII. There he was recruited first by West German intelligence and later by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which smuggled him into the U.S., hid his fascist past, and got him U.S. citizenship in 1957. Since then he has lived in New York City and runs an anti-communist, nationalist publishing house, supported with CIA funds. 

8. Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia 1941-1945, 2nd edition (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1961), p. 64. 

9. John A Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 2nd edition (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1964), p. 128. 

10. Gerard Reitlinger, The House Built on Sand: The Conflicts in German Policy in Russia, 1939-1945 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975; original edition 1960), p. 246. For Fyodorov as a Ukrainian, see Armstrong, p. 132; for a good review of his book, The Underground Committee Carries On, see PL Magazine Vol. 11, No. 1 (February-March, 1976), p. 35-37, 40. 

11. Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (New York: Pocket Books, 1979), pp. 46, 52. 
12. Armstrong, pp. 288-9. 
13. Armstrong, p. 238.