Mr. Ichlov’s Truth Barometer


A reply to a polemic against the RCIT by the Russian left-wing journalist Boris Ichlov


By Michael Pröbsting and Petr Sedov, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 7 September 2020,




Recently, the Russian journalist Boris Ichlov published a vulgar polemic against the RCIT, titled – with unintended irony – “Be Able To Distinguish Truth From Lies”. [1] According to the author our organization has capitulated to U.S. imperialism and the liberal bourgeoisie. This is all the more damning because, as the title already indicates, it is so easy to recognize the truth.


We don’t want to deny that it is not too difficult for Marxists to recognize the truth. Unfortunately, the article reveals that this is too much of a challenge for Mr. Ichlov. However, this does not shatter his self-confidence. He claims to have found a simple method to recognize the truth. We admit it is really very simple. Maybe too simple?


The author explains the method and superiority of his truth barometer right at the beginning of the nearly 1,800 words article. We have a strong rejection of liberals. They are an indicator for us: if the liberals support the truck drivers ' strike, it means that the case is not clean. If liberals talk about police violence in Russia, it means that the case is not clean. If the liberals talk about an uprising in Khabarovsk, it means that there is no uprising there. Second, we are Marxists. Therefore, the main indicator for us is the main imperialist of the world, the world gendarme, the United States. If Washington supports the Kosovo Albanians and talks about ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, it means that there has never been ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.


And so it goes on. “Washington announced that Milosevic is a dictator who is carrying out ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. And we understand that there is no ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Washington trumpets the tragedy in Srebrenica, the death of the majority of the population of Srebrenica. But the election campaign started in Srebrenica, and the dead all rose from their graves and came to vote!


Washington announced the September 11 terrorist attack, but no trace of the plane allegedly hit the Pentagon was found.


Washington declared that Gaddafi is a dictator. And we saw brand-new rifles from warehouses in the United States in the hands of Libyan "revolutionaries".


Washington appointed al-Assad a dictator. And we understand that the goal of this lie is the project of a gas pipeline from Qatar through Syria, along with Syrian oil. The "proletarian revolution" in Egypt was announced. And in Egypt, Islamic fundamentalists came to power.”


Washington, Berlin, and Warsaw support the Belarusian opposition. And we understand that there is no uprising of the people against the dictator Lukashenko in Belarus.”




The wisdom of Pavlov’s Dog




We could continue this list of similar quotes but we don’t want to torture the intelligence of our readers. The whole article is based on such crude logic. If Washington says A, the truth must be B. If CNN states that the planet is round, it can only mean that the Earth is flat. The whole method of Mr. Ichlov consists of automatically making a plus where Washington makes a minus. It is the wisdom of Pavlov’s Dog. When it hears “Washington”, it barks. Case closed. So simple is Mr. Ichlov’s truth barometer!


In the early 11th century, Pierre Abelard – a great Christian theologian and the “first intellectual of the Middle Ages” (Jaques Le Goff) – tried to introduce elements of rationalism in the mystic world of Catholic dogmatism. He proclaimed “intelligo ut credam” (I Know in Order to Believe), i.e. one needs a rational comprehension of the world in order to believe. [2] Sadly, people like Mr. Ichlov have turned this upside down. They limit themselves to uncritical dogmas and hope by such that they could understand the world. In other words, they fall back to the intellectual horizon of the most dogmatic theologians – like so many other Stalinist ideologists.


How can it be the case that it so obvious for reasonable persons that there have been massacres against the Kosova Albanians [3], the Bosnian Muslims [4], that there have been popular uprisings from Libya [5] to Belarus [6], that 9/11 [7] was no fake, etc.? Of course, our expert in truth has also an explanation for this. It is because the imperialist enemy is particularly clever in covering its trace! Is this not obvious?! Stalin already knew that! Just remember the bizarre lies which the bureaucratic dictatorship announced about Trotsky, Rakovsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin, and many other former leaders of the Bolshevik party during the Moscow show trials. When the whole world could not believe Vyshinsky’s hysterical accusations that these revolutionaries should have been “agents of Hitler” and other enemies of the Soviet people for years and decades, Stalin claimed that this was difficult to recognize because these were “great conspirators”. Mr. Ichlov – irrespective of his verbal anti-Stalinism in the past – positively refers in his article to the dictator as an authority for his case: Stalin explained to Feuchtwanger why there is no physical evidence of the crimes of Bukharin, Trotsky, Ryutin, and others – because they have passed the school of the underground, they are great conspirators and leave no traces behind them!


And, in fact, this positive reference to Stalin and his outlook is highly indicative for Ichlov’s own world view. It is the most vulgar schematism, completely free from dialectic, facts and figures. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Ichlov’s truth is relevant only in his little “intellectual” bubble.


It is characteristic for the failure of the author’s truth barometer that he completely confuses the history of the RCIT. He claims: The intellectual level of data Trotskyists-below the plinth, however, as with all Trotskyists. But this is the first time I have seen such cattle, I did not know that there are macaques in Italy. The group was founded in 1983 as the international Bureau for the revolutionary party as a result of a joint initiative of the Internationalist Communist party (Battaglia Comunista) from Italy and the Communist workers ' organization (CWO) from great Britain. Other affiliated organizations were the Internationalist working group from the United States and Canada, the group of internationalist socialists (Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen) from Germany, and a small French section.


As a matter of fact, the groups which he names have nothing to do with the RCIT – and never had! These organizations are not Trotskyists and never claimed such. As a two minute research in Google would have revealed (but Mr. Ichlov probably refuses to use Google as it is an American and not a national machine!), these forces stand in the political tradition of Amadeo Bordiga, an Italian revolutionary with strong characteristics of sectarianism and ultra-leftism. The RCIT never had any relationship with these forces so we simply have no idea why our truth-loving Mr. Ichlov comes up with such inventions! May be his truth barometer has a small defect? [8]


Unfortunately, this is not an exceptional case where our expert in truth creates his own truth, or – to put it in everyday language – distorts it. To give another example: in his article Mr. Ichlov presents the comrades of the Russian MGKP – with whom the RCIT had fraternal relations in 2018-19 – as uncritical supporters of Confederation of Labor of Russia (KTR). He presents a quote from an interview with them in order to twist its meaning. “More: ‘if we consider those that actively defend the economic interests of workers as fighting unions: in particular, they promote and use strikes as a means of struggle, then Yes, we can say that there are such unions - the Confederation of labor of Russia (KTR).’” From this Mr. Ichlov concludes: “Aha. It was the KTR, together with the FNPR, that signed a tripartite agreement with the authorities and employers to resolve labor conflicts without strikes. That is why rplbzh (sic!) out of CTE. However, after that, he never held a single strike.


However, if one reads the full paragraph from which Mr. Ichlov took a single sentence, the real meaning of the Russian comrades’ statement becomes pretty clear. “If we count independent trade unions there are those who are active in fighting for the economic interests of workers. An example for a union which propagates and uses strikes as means of fight, is the trade union Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR). However, is it really independent from the ruling class we’ll see if we take the following example: the president of KTR, Boris Kravchenko, wrote at the end of 2011 about the killing of protesting oil company workers in Zhanaozen (West Kazakhstan) and blamed the Committee for Workers’ International (CWI) for the provocation of Kazakhstan authorities of such actions. We have another example – the political evolution of the famous trade union activist Alexei Etmanov (Interregional Trade Union “Worker Association” (MPRA)). First he “always supported Communist Party of Russian Federation during elections”, later he guaranteed that the A Just Russia Party will receive the vote of all four thousand MPRA members and their families and at last he joined the electoral list of Yabloko party at the last election. What does this say about the independence of these forces?! [9]


As we can see, in contrast to Mr. Ichlov’s claim, the MGKP never uncritically supported the KTR. However, it seems to be asking too much for a Moscow State University post-graduate in theoretical physics to present a quote in full! Furthermore, since Mr. Ichlov should be able to read Russian, he could have seen himself that this organization not only criticized the KTR leadership but also other left-wing groups for hiding the tripartite agreement.




The cancer of Russian social-imperialism




Anyway, why does Mr. Ichlov attack the RCIT? The reasons seems to be, as the references of his article indicate, that we are an international organization (including comrades in Russia) and that we are enemies not only of Western imperialism but also of its Russian and Chinese rivals.


Mr. Ichlov comes from a political tradition opposed to Stalinism as he considers the USSR to have been state-capitalist (and not a “degenerated workers state” as we Trotskyists view it [10]). When he was younger, in the 1980s and early 1990s, he was a member in left-wing organizations like the Perm-based Union of Communists” and its successor, the “Worker’s Union”, and later the “Confederation of Labor”, the “Party of Labour“ and OPOR.


However, this was a long time ago! Today Mr. Ichlov’s fantasizes about the idiotism of contemporary Trotskyism[11] and makes the political outlook of Stalinism his own. While he verbally attacks Stalinism for its patriotism, he himself is infected by this cancer and parades as a Russian patriot and a staunch defender of his motherland. He denies the fact that Russia has become an imperialist power and claims that it is rather a “peripheral” capitalist country. This is simple a grotesque caricature of the real class character of Russia! As the RCIT has demonstrated in numerous works, Russia has emerged as an imperialist power in the past two decades. [12]


Based on such a topsy turvy reality, Mr. Ichlov shares the widespread conception among Russian reformists and centrists that Russia is not an imperialist power. This idea is not new and has its historical roots in the Stalinist bureaucracy (and bourgeois Pan-Slavism before). It declared in the 1930s that Russia was not an imperialist power before the socialist October Revolution in 1917 but rather a “semi-colony”. [13] This was in clear contradiction to the long-standing analysis of Lenin and the Bolshevik party – which was uphold in the 1920s by the school of Marxist historians led by M.N. Pokrovsky – who insisted that Russia was imperialist. [14]


It is a tragedy that large sectors of the Russian left – Stalinist as well as non-Stalinist – have picked up the theoretical legacy of Stalinism and deny the imperialist character of this Great Power. As a result, they view Putin’s foreign policy primarily as a kind of defensive reaction to the aggression of U.S. imperialism. Consequently, they side – openly or in disguise – with their “fatherland” against “imperialism” (i.e. the Western rivals). As we have analyzed in much detail in our book on the Great Power rivalry, all these theories practically result in shameful versions of Russian social-imperialism, i.e. the defense of the imperialist fatherland under the cloak of “anti-imperialism” and “socialism”. [15]


Mr. Ichlov’s Russian social-patriotism leads him also to denounce the policy of “korenizatsiya”. This was the Bolshevik’s nationality policy in the early period of the USSR which advocated the “indigenization”, i.e. the promotion of language, education, and development of the non-Russian people. Unsurprisingly Mr. Ichlov, as a proud Great Russian, strongly dislikes the policy of “korenizatsiya” and even criticizes Stalin for it. He claims that this policy was responsible for the current problems in the Ukraine. “Plus to this - the Stalinist policy of indigenization, in particular, Ukrainization. Transfer of Russian regions, incl. Donbass Ukraine. We have seen the consequences.” [16]


However, despite Stalin’s involvement in the politics of korenizatsya, this was supported by all party factions. The first decree – “On implementation of the Ukrainization of the educational and cultural institutions” (27 July 1923) – was adopted in response to Lenin’s and Trotsky’s attacks against the Great Russian chauvinist policy promoted by Stalin and his allies. [17]




Self-Flagellation on the Chechen question




Mr. Ichlov Russian patriotism and social-imperialism causes him to strongly dislike the RCIT and its Russian comrades. To the annoyance of Mr. Ichlov, the RCIT dares to state that "the Russian Federation is an imperialist state." He is also outraged by our statement that “the Chechen people have been fighting an irreconcilable struggle for independence for centuries." Is it not obvious that the Chechens wanted to “create a Wahhabi state”?! [18]


In fact, the Chechen question is symbolic for the drastic shift to the right by Mr. Ichlov and many other Russian left-wing intellectuals. In the 1990s he and his organization openly supported the right for national self-determination of Chechen people. During the first Chechen war in 1994-96, even the arch-Stalinist Victor Anpilov took a defeatist position and refused to support the Russian aggressor. But this was a long time ago, and today Mr. Ichlov is highly self-critical about his internationalist past as he has become a vulgar Russian social-patriot.


“However, on the whole nothing has foreshadowed upcoming disaster. The left, including our Union of Communists (later OPOR), even approvingly reacted to the national movements, since our enemy was common - the bourgeois elite of the CPSU. Workers from the Baltic States came to the RSFSR and participated on equal terms in rallies and meetings of the left. How could the left not adhere to the right of nations to self-determination, legalized by Lenin and enshrined in the Constitution?” [19]




The Syrian people “are grateful to Russia”?




Worse, the RCIT even sides with the Arab Revolution and the popular uprising of the Syrian people – an Anathema for Stalinism and many other Islamophobic “leftists” in West and East. [20] Mr. Ichlov is outraged that the RCIT “seriously believe that the Russian Federation is intervening in Syria!” Surely, Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base and its naval facility in Tartus, the mercenaries of Wagner PMC, the indiscriminate bombing and killing of Syrian civilians by Russian warplanes, etc. are also inventions by the CNN! Mr. Ichlov can’t understand why we Trotskyists don’t recognize that the Syrian people welcome the “help” of their “Russian brother”. The vast majority of the population of Syria is grateful to the Russian troops who protect it from American bandits and from ISIL. [21]


Well, in fact the Syrian people “welcomed” the Russian troops with the same “enthusiasm” as the Chechen welcomed them in 1994-96 and 1999-2009: they did everything to give them a bloody nose as much as possible!!


But according to Mr. Ichlov, the Syrian – as well as the Libyan people – were completely happy with “their leader” and had no reason to rise up! “Revolutions occur, Lenin explained, when the upper classes cannot govern in the old way, and the lower classes can no longer live in the old way. Was it in Syria, where the standard of living was higher than in Russia, where, like in Libya, there were a lot of benefits for the population? Of course not! Revolutions begin, Lenin explained, when the masses are suddenly impoverished beyond the ordinary. Was it in Syria? No. [22]


As we can see, social-chauvinism not only makes people like Mr. Ichlov blind but also ignorant. It is well known that the living conditions of the masses in Syria – and the whole Arab world – had dramatically deteriorated as a result of the Great Recession in 2008/09. “Daraa, the largest city in the Hawran valley, located just a few kilometres from the Jordanian border, was already deeply impoverished due to the depletion of water resources, forcing some farmers to turn from the agricultural sector to opening chicken farms. In early March 2011, just days before protests broke out, an International Crisis Group team reported that “local residents warned of an explosive situation; any spark might cause it to detonate. [23]


In summary, Mr. Ichlov’s indignation about the RCIT is understandable. We stand on opposite sides of the barricade. The RCIT opposes all imperialist Great Powers in West and East. Mr. Ichlov and similar-minded social-patriots side with Russia against its Western rivals. The RCIT supports the Arab Revolution and the popular uprising of the Syrian people since 2011. Mr. Ichlov and similar-minded “socialists” side with the local bourgeois dictatorships and their imperialist backers. Mr. Ichlov can invent as many truth barometers as he likes, he can not hide the fact that he is a staunch supporter of the camp of Russian imperialism.


In 1924 a flood swept St. Petersburg, nearly killing the dogs in the basement of Pavlov and it was his assistant who saved the animals from drowning. Mr. Ichlov can only hope for such a loyalty from his Russian imperialist master.


[1] Boris Ichlov: Be Able To Distinguish Truth From Lies, 1 September 2020, This article has been published in English language. We are not aware if a Russian language version of this article does also exist. All quotes from Mr. Ichlov, if not referred otherwise, are from this article.

[2] See on this e.g. Jaques Le Goff: Die Intellektuellen im Mittelalter, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, München 1986, pp. 41-55; Jürgen Kuczynski: Die Intelligenz. Studien zur Soziologie und Geschichte ihrer Großen, Akademi-Verlag, Berlin 1987, pp. 189-196

[3] On the RCIT’s analysis of Kosova see e.g. Johannnes Wiener and Ime Berisha: Freedom and Self-Determination for Kosova! Down with the Government of Isa Mustafa Hashim Thaçi, Lackeys for the Rich and Imperialism! 31.01.2015,

[4] On the RCIT’s analysis of Bosnia and the Balkan Wars see e.g. Almedina Gunić: Bosnia: Never forget Srebrenica - learn the lessons for today! August 2012,; Michael Pröbsting: International Workers Aid: Our Solidarity Work with the Liberation Struggle of Bosnia in 1992-95, 11.2.2014,

[5] On the RCIT’s analysis of the Libyan Revolution see e.g. RCIT: Libya: Defend Tripoli! Defeat Haftar! For Popular Militias to organize an independent struggle against the counterrevolution! 9 April 2019,; RCIT: Stop the US Bombing of Libya! Mobilize against the Expansion of the Imperialist War! Defeat the Imperialist Aggressors and Their Lackeys in Libya! 23.2.2016,; RCIT: General Sisi, Hollande, Obama: Hands Off Libya! Defeat General Haftars’ Imperialist Lackeys! Down with the Daash-Gang of Killers! For a Workers’ and Popular Government! 26.2.2015,; Michael Pröbsting: Liberation Struggles and Imperialist Interference. The failure of sectarian “anti-imperialism” in the West: Some general considerations from the Marxist point of view and the example of the democratic revolution in Libya in 2011, in Revolutionary Communism No. 5 (2012),; RKOB: After the collapse of the Gaddafi regime: Where now for the Libyan Revolution? in Revolutionary Communism No. 1 (2011),; Michael Pröbsting: The intervention of the imperialist powers in Libya, the struggle of the masses against Gaddafi’s dictatorship and the tactics of revolutionary communists, in Revolutionary Communism No. 1 (2011),

[6] On the RCIT’s analysis of the uprising in Belarus see: Open Letter to Belarusian Workers. Down with Lukashenko's regime! Advance the class struggle to achieve workers' democracy and overthrow imperialism! For the general strike!, 15 August 2020,; Открытое письмо белорусским рабочим. Долой режим Лукашенко! За продвижение классовой борьбы для достижения рабочей демократии и свержения империализма! За всеобщую стачку!

[7] For our statement on the 9/11 event see Statement on 9/11 Attacks. Fight imperialist hypocrisy! Reject individual terrorism! Stop US military retaliation! 13.09.2001,

[8] For an overview of the history of our movement see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice. Looking Back and Ahead after 25 Years of Organized Struggle for Bolshevism, Vienna 2014,

[9] Interview with Marxist Group "Class Politics" (MGKP) to "Revolutionary Communist International Tendency", 6 November 2017,

[10] For our analysis of Stalinism see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Cuba’s Revolution Sold Out? The Road from Revolution to the Restoration of Capitalism, August 2013, RCIT Books, See also LRCI: The Degenerated Revolution: The Origin and Nature of the Stalinist States,


[12] On the RCIT’s analysis of Russia’s rise as emerging imperialist powers see, in addition to the literature mentioned in the special sub-section on our website:, the following works: Michael Pröbsting: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism, August 2014,; Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, Special Issue of Revolutionary Communism No. 21 (March 2014), See also chapter V, VI, VII and IX of our book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, January 2019,

[13] Instructed by Stalin, the Russian historians in the 1930s were forced rewrite the Marxist analysis of Russia’s class character. Such, the notorious “Short Course” stated: “That Russia entered the imperialist war on the side of the Entente, on the side of France and Great Britain, was not accidental. It should be borne in mind that before 1914 the most important branches of Russian industry were in the hands of foreign capitalists, chiefly those of France, Great Britain and Belgium, that is, the Entente countries. The most important of Russia’s metal works were in the hands of French capitalists. In all, about three-quarters (72 per cent) of the metal industry depended on foreign capital. The same was true of the coal industry of the Donetz Basin. Oilfields owned by British and French capital accounted for about half the oil output of the country. A considerable part of the profits of Russian industry flowed into foreign banks, chiefly British and French. All these circumstances, in addition to the thousands of millions borrowed by the tsar from France and Britain in loans, chained tsardom to British and French imperialism and converted Russia into a tributary, a semi-colony of these countries.” (History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course, Edited by a Commission of the C.C. of the C.P.S.U.(B.), International Publishers, New York 1939, p. 162. Another edition of the same book, published by the Foreign Languages Publishing House in Moscow in 1945, contains the same formulation on the same page.)

[14] A number of his works have been translated into English and German language: M. N. Pokrovskii: Russia in World History; Selected Essays, Edited by Roman Szporluk, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 1970; M. Pokrowski: Geschichte Russlands von seiner Entstehung bis zur neuesten Zeit, C.L.Hirschfeld Verlag, Leipzig 1929; M. Pokrowski: Russische Geschichte, Berlin 1930; M. N. Pokrowski: Historische Aufsätze. Ein Sammelband, Verlag für Literatur und Politik, Wien und Berlin 1928; M.N. Pokrovskij: Aus den Geheim-Archiven des Zaren. Ein Beitrag zur Frage nach den Urhebern des Weltkrieges, August Scherl, Berlin 1919; M.N. Pokrovski: Vorwort des russischen Herausgebers, in: Otto Hoetzsch (Ed.): Internationale Beziehungen im Zeitalter des Imperialismus, Reihe 1, 1. Band, Verlag von Reimar Hobbing, Berlin 1931.

[15] See on this chapter See also chapter XXIV, XXV, and XXVI of our book by Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry.

[16] Борис Ихлов: Больные самоопределением, December 2019,

[17] See on this e.g. See on this e.g. Jeremy Smith: Red Nations. The Nationalities Experience in and after the USSR, Cambridge 2013, pp. 17-96; Terry Martin: The Affirmative Action Empire. Nations and Nationalities in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939, New York 2001; Hélène Carrère d'Encausse: The Great Challenge: Nationalities and the Bolshevik State 1917-1930, New York 1992; Ditte Gerns: Nationalitätenpolitik der Bolschewiki. Die Herausbildung der bolschewistischen Konzeption der Nationalitätenpolitik von den Anfängen bis zur ersten Verfassung der UdSSR, Düsseldorf 1988. On Trotsky’s approach to the national question in the USSR and Stalin’s policy see e.g. Leon Trotsky: The Revolution Betrayed (1936), Pathfinder Press 1972 (chapter VII).

[18] On the RCIT’s position on the Chechen liberation struggle see e.g. Russian Troops Out! Self-determination for Chechnya! Joint Statement of the League for the Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) and the Trotskyist Faction, 30.06.1996,; Where does the RCIT Stand on Russia's Occupation of Chechnya?

[19] Борис Ихлов: Национальный вопрос в период перестройки, 19.2.2020,

[20] The RCIT has published numerous documents on the Arab Revolution (see for this Our documents on the second wave of the Arab Revolution that can be accessed on a special sub-section of this website: Our documents on the Syrian Revolution can be accessed here:

[21] Boris Ikhlov: About the "Revolution" in Syria, 3.9.2014,

[22] Ibid

[23] Alice Bonfatti: The socio-economic roots of Syria’s uprising, 21 September 2017,