Take sides with people, not with Putin

March 28, 2014

Russia has annexed Crimea. Thousands of Russian troops are gathered near the Ukrainian border. While the two countries’ foreign ministers have met, and tension seems to have eased slightly this week, the threat of war remains.  Opposition to military adventures such as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s should be the ABC of socialism, in my view. And yet some socialists in the UK and Ireland are stringing together contorted arguments for taking Putin’s side. This article examines the issues.

On Crimean sovereignty, “Russia has more right on its side than the West – which is the same thing as saying […] that Putin and Russia are right”, the Irish socialist journalist Eamonn McCann wrote in the Irish Times last week.

The Crimean population had voted to join Russia, McCann argued, and US president Barack Obama had told them their opinion didn’t count. “If we have to take sides […] Ireland should side with the Russians.”

McCann doesn’t seem that bothered that the referendum was carried out straight after Russian tanks rolled into Crimea. (I’ve written more about that Read the rest of this entry »

Crimea: a divisive, dangerous assault

March 16, 2014

The Russian military action in Crimea is dividing working people, socialists in Ukraine are warning. The threat of war will exacerbate Ukraine’s economic crisis – which is already driving the new neo-liberal government in Kyiv to attack living standards.

Struggles over social issues could be the starting-point for countering the poisonous effect of pro-Russian separatism on one side and extreme Ukrainian nationalism on the other. But radical socialists in Kyiv and in eastern Ukrainian cities emphasise that, in the immediate future, launching such struggles will not be easy.

Putin’s war 

Putin is absolutely right on one point: the western powers’ protests at the Russian action in Crimea are completely hypocritical. Putin said at his 4 March press conference that, when western leaders told him the action was Read the rest of this entry »

Bob Crow

March 14, 2014

A look back at one aspect of the life of Bob Crow, the RMT union leader who died on 11 March, by NEIL ROTHNIE, a North Sea oil worker and trade union activist.

Bob Crow was head and shoulders above all of the other national trade

Bob Crow. Photo: Jarle Vines / Creative Commons

Bob Crow. Photo: Jarle Vines / Creative Commons

union leaders. That is why, in 2008, I supported the merger of the Oil Industry Liaison Committee (OILC), the independent offshore oil workers’ union of which I was a member, with the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) of which Bob was the general secretary.

I had been a member of the National Union of Seamen (now part of RMT) in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Then I was a founder member of the OILC, when it was set up in the wake of the Piper Alpha disaster [the explosion on board a North Sea oil rig in which 167 workers died] in 1988.

The official trade unions had proved to be worse than useless in organising offshore workers, or even standing up for those sacked and black during the big strikes in 1989 and 1990. A Read the rest of this entry »

Ukrainians, Russians and Europeans against Putin’s war

March 2, 2014

Ukrainians, Russians and Europeans were on the streets today protesting against the Putin regime’s attack on Ukraine. It’s the only shaft of light I can see in a dark sky overshadowed by the danger of war, with 6000 Russian troops reportedly on Ukrainian territory in Crimea, some of them surrounding Ukrainian bases.


In Moscow, anti-war demonstrators were detained in large numbers. Each

Nikolaev march

Demonstration in Nikolaev. Photo: nikvesti.com/ Ukrainska Pravda

time protesters assembled on Manezhnaya square in the city centre, more were arrested. Novaya Gazeta, the liberal opposition paper, reported 265 arrests and counting just after 16.00 Moscow time.

Voices on the Russian radical left were unequivocal. “It is necessary to call a spade a spade: what’s happening in Crimea these days is a classic act of imperialist intervention on the part of the Russian state”, said the Open Left group in a statement published in English here.

“Maidan has opened the sluices of activity of the far-right thugs – and at the same time has spurred to political life great masses of people, who perhaps Read the rest of this entry »

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