A statement by the Global Labour Institute Network, published yesterday, calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukrainian territory and for solidarity against war
The full-scale invasion of Ukrainian territory by Russian military forces on 24 February 2022 has unleashed a murderous war at the centre of Europe. Not only soldiers on both sides, but also peaceful civilians, will die. War is turning into a nightmare the lives of those on whose land it is being waged. In these conditions, trade unions and other organisations of working people can not stand on the sidelines or act as neutral observers. We must do everything we can to bring an end to the military aggression, to war, as soon as possible.
The Ukrainian people, in defending their independence and freedom, need solidarity in practice. The subordination of Ukraine to Putin’s authoritarian regime, or its proxies, would destroy democratic institutions, including the workers’ movement – as has already happened over the last eight years in the Russian-controlled puppet Donetsk and Luhansk “peoples’ republics”.
The Russian state propaganda machine’s claim, that the invasion’s aim is to “liberate” Ukraine, which is supposedly ruled by “drug addicts and neo-Nazis”, is a cynical lie. In contrast, it is true that Putin and his party “Yedinaya Rossia” have friendly relations with extreme right wing parties in Europe and worldwide. Just as deceitful are the spurious justifications of the attack on the grounds that a threat to Russia’s security lurks on Ukrainian territory.
The Kremlin’s real aim is to seize territory from Ukraine, which Putin and his henchmen have declared to be an artificial construct put in place by the Bolsheviks. Slogans about “the struggle with Nazism” are a cover for an attempt to conquer “living space” for “the Russian world” and restoration of the Russian empire. Just as in the 20th century the international workers’ movement defended the Spanish republic from fascism, and supported resistance to totalitarian dictatorships, so today it must defend democratic Ukraine!
The current war is not a conflict of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. War has been unleashed by the dictatorial regime that rules in Moscow, under which the whole Russian people is suffering. Continuing the traditions of Russian tsarism and Stalinism, preaching archaic imperial ideology, this regime hates Ukraine not only for its aspiration to independence but also for its revolutionary traditions.
The rulers in the Kremlin fear that the systemic change that took place in Ukraine in 2014 could be continued in Russia, and this is yet another reason that they have unleashed war. The Putin regime, like Russia in the 19th century, wants to play the role of the international gendarme. The proof of this is not only the invasion of Ukraine, but also the support given to its authoritarian brother regimes in suppressing popular uprisings in Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Already, more than one million Russians have signed letters demanding the immediate cessation of hostilities. The same position has been taken by a large number of professional associations – of researchers, teachers, doctors, workers in the arts, architects, publishers, translators and so on. This anti-war movement by civil society also needs international support.
The workers’ movement has always been based on the principles of internationalism and solidarity across state borders. Now these principles must be implemented in practice. General declarations about a peace settlement are not enough. We must call things by their real names, and take a position on the conflict, standing on the side of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples against the Kremlin oligarchy, that bears the full responsibility for this war, that has already produced a threat of nuclear apocalypse to the whole world.
The workers’ and anti-war movements have in their arsenal considerable means to fight and to demonstrate solidarity, which have been tested in practice. Now organisations of working people and civil society need to circulate accurate information about the causes and character of this war, to use all available means to unmask Kremlin propaganda and to give all types of support to Ukraine in its battles. If the aggression is not halted, this will be the gravest defeat for all progressive forces on an international scale. We can not allow that.
For the immediate withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukrainian territory!
No to war!
□ Most people I know – friends, and/or activists in labour movements and social movements – are talking about what we can do, if anything, about the war launched by the Russian government in Ukraine. I don’t have any easy answers, but I think the GLI Network statement points in the right direction. Here are two thoughts of my own.
First. The resistance to the Russian invasion in the last few days looks increasingly like a people’s war. Apart from those civilians who have taken up arms and joined volunteer defence units, large numbers of people have come out across eastern Ukraine, unarmed, to try to block the progress of Russian troops. Among the videos I found on the internet yesterday – from sources I think are reasonably reliable – were these:
□ Ukrainians in Koryukivka, Chernihiv, blocking the path of Russian tanks. From Deutsche Welle’s twitter feed.
□ A demonstration in Energodar, Zaporizhzhia region, preparing to block the progress of Russian troops. From the twitter feed of Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Centre for Civil Liberties, Ukraine. Another view of the same demonstration, from the insiderUKR telegram channel
□ In Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainians shouting to Russian troops “occupiers” and “go home”. From the twitter feed of Franak Viacorka, senior adviser to Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader.
□ In Berdyansk, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainians confronting Russian troops, shouting “go home” and singing the national anthem. From Time magazine’s twitter feed.
I recommend these, not because I am carried away by the idea that such popular revolt will prevail; not because I want to ignore the sheer horror of the overwhelming military force with which this revolt is confronted; and not because I want to say that only these people are right, and those that decide to act differently, e.g. to leave their country to try to find safety for themselves and their families, are wrong … but because this type of action is, nevertheless a vital element in this conflict.
Ukraine is a country, after all, upon whose citizens Russian president Vladimir Putin called to rise up against the “Nazis” and “drug dealers” who, in his view, rule Ukraine. So far I have heard no reports of any such pro-Russian uprising – even though there is no doubt that some Ukrainians take Russia’s side in this conflict. But there is a great deal of defiance.
Second. The opposition to the war inside Russia, exemplified in the photo, is of great importance. By last night, the OVD-Info site recorded that more than 7600 Russians had been arrested on anti-war protests. I don’t want to underestimate the great power of the state that such brave people are trying to defy, or the scale of the task they have taken on in trying to do so. The question is whether we can start to build a movement that embraces all of us, all of them.
The GLI Network addresses such issues, I think, and points the way to the type of solidarity that stands in the tradition of the international – and internationalist – working-class movement. Not a solidarity that divides, or that puts the power in the hands of the states and their armed forces, but a solidarity that unites peoples.
As well as the GLI Network statement, it’s worth reading this declaration by the Confederation of Labour of Russia. It is worded mildly because, as the main umbrella for trade unions that are independent of the state and employers in Russia, the confederation is aware of the range of views among its members. Some of them support the war, I would presume. But nevertheless, the confederation calls clearly for military action to stop.
From Ukraine, here are two statements by rank-and-file activists in the workers’ movement that are of interest: (i) Support Ukrainian refugees, support Ukrainian workers, an interview with Vitaly Makhinko of the Labour Solidarity Union, and (ii) The Last War of Putin’s Reich: an appeal by Ukrainian socialists to socialists and workers of the world. The signatories of that second statement include Oleg Dubrovsky, a veteran of the workers’ movement in Dnipro.
And exchanges between Ukrainians and the western “left” (a category over which I would put a giant question mark, but people use it) continue. An open letter by Taras Bilous has been followed by an article by Volodymyr Artiukh. In the US, some comments by the Marxist writer David Harvey have provoked responses from Don Kalb and Derek Hall. SP, 3 March 2022.
□ The “republics” Putin is fighting for (2 March 2022)