Ukraine: ‘We are surviving, but not living’ under Russian occupation

June 13, 2022

Women in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine demonstrated last month against the forced conscription of men into the armed forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”.

A banner, stating “We are surviving, but not living” was pictured by the Eastern Human Rights Group – which has supported workers’ movements and civil society organisations in the “republics” since they were founded in 2014 – on its facebook page.

“We are surviving, but not living”. From the Eastern Human Rights Group facebook page

The chaotic situation in the Russian-controlled areas, including a reshuffle of the puppet government of the “Donetsk people’s republic”, is described by Ukrainian activists in this series of facebook posts, reproduced with permission.

Forcible conscription provokes protests

By Vera Yastrebova, 18 May

On Monday and Tuesday, 16-17 May, women protested near local military recruitment offices in Debaltseve (Donetsk), Krasnoe Luch and Perevalsk (Luhansk). Women demanded to be given information about the whereabouts of their men who had been forcibly mobilized by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). In Anthracite and Rovenky (Luhansk), women organised a collective march to address the heads of the occupation administrations of these cities and to demand information.

Women also wrote numerous letters of protest to the authorities of the Russian Federation, demanding an end to the forced mobilisation of men and students in the DPR and LPR. However, in almost all cases, their grievances were dismissed, or they were recommended to approach the Luhansk and Donetsk administrations.

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‘No war but the class war’. Not a very useful slogan

March 14, 2022

A guest post by BOB MYERS

In a discussion I took part in last week, a comrade ended a piece he wrote about Ukraine with the following:

The left slips into the two opposing camps quickly (pro-Putin/ pro-independence), and the tiny voices that call for working class unity and system change are hardly heard. What kind of actions – of self-defence, support etc – facilitate that this voice is heard and what kind of actions drown it out or contradict it?

The devil is in the detail. As he says, what kind of actions? But your actions will flow from your understanding of the situation. I want to go back over our experience in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to show that many of the people who started  with “no war but the class war” ended up either totally irrelevant to the working class or even worse, on the side of reaction, because of their  inability to understand the working class kernel wrapped up in a “national flag” shell.

An anti-war demonstrator being detained in Moscow

The problem is that all inter-imperialist wars always contain within them the war between classes.  In each situation, militants have to try to understand how these two different wars are overlaid – and this can be very difficult in situations where the working class has no clear voice of its own.

And trying to unravel these two wars is necessary, not just to write nice “analysis”,  but to know what to do as a working class militant. 

I read  many pieces at present which ask the question, what should workers in Ukraine do, and then proceed to give them advice. I’m not saying thinking about this is forbidden, but it seems back to front.  The Ukrainian worker has made his or her decision, maybe to get out, maybe to stay and fight. Our question, first and foremost, is, what are we going to do in response to their decisions?  But the answer to this is inevitably dependent on the first question – where is the class war within the inter-imperialist war? 

No war but the class war, without real investigation, is meaningless.

I want to stress that the situation in Bosnia in the 1990s was different from Ukraine, and you can not simply transfer our experience of the one on the other.

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Putin’s war is the face of 21st century capitalism. A podcast

March 11, 2022

David Camfield and I spoke about how post-Soviet Russian capitalism folded into the world system, what Vladimir Putin’s drive to establish the strong state has done – from his wars in Chechnya and Syria, to his conflict with Russian business and the invasion of Ukraine – and what it tells us about capitalism in the 21st century. All here on the Victor’s Children podcast. Simon Pirani.

Ukrainians demonstrating in Melitopol this week against the Russian occupation

Why Ukraine is a Syrian cause

March 9, 2022

By YASSIN AL-HAJ SALEH, a Syrian writer and political dissident. Republished, with permission, from the DAWN website

In the week since Russia’s invasion began, Syrians opposed to President Bashar al-Assad might come second only to Ukrainians themselves in following every horror of the war that Vladimir Putin’s regime is waging in Ukraine. The reason behind this curious situation, of course, should be quite apparent. Russia has been occupying part of Syria since late September 2015, brutally supporting Assad’s regime, whose highest priority is to stay in power forever, even if he has to submit the country to expansionist outside forces like Iran and Russia itself.

A member of the Russian military police stands guard, before posters of Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. Damascus, Syria, 2018

For six and a half years, Russia has held a major military base in northwestern Syria, called Hmeimim, to which Assad is usually summoned when Putin or his defence minister visit their troops there. In 2019, Russia secured a 49-year lease for the port of Tartous, where it can now base warships in the Mediterranean. Russia’s defence minister has boasted of successfully testing more than 320 different weapons from its military arsenal in Syria. Putin himself praised the combat experience that more than 85 percent of the Russian army’s commanders gained in Syria.

Syria was a testing ground for Russia’s military. It used phosphorus munitions, thermobaric bombs and cluster bombs—banned by international treaty—against civilian facilities, targeting hospitals, schools and markets. It labelled all those who opposed the Assad regime as terrorists (just like Assad did too). This simply means that their lives are ungrievable; that killing them is not a crime. It is even a good thing that should be rewarded, at least with praise. Indeed, Putin was praised by Islamophobic right-wing organizations in the West, and supporters of authoritarianism everywhere, for his imperialist war in Syria, responsible so far for killing some 23,000 civilians.

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Solidarity with Russia’s anti-war schoolteachers

March 8, 2022

An open letter against Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine had yesterday been signed by more than 5000 Russian teachers – and some signatories are facing pressure and threats from their managers.

“Violence goes against the very essence of our profession”, the letter states, implicitly supporting teachers who are resisting the propagation of the Kremlin’s military aims and ideology in classrooms.  

Moscow, 24 February. “Peace to Ukraine, freedom to Russia”

The open letter, and the names and regions of each signatory, were published on line by the Teachers Against War group. But with the introduction last week of heavy penalties – up to 15 years in prison – for public statements of opposition to the war, the letter itself was removed. The group’s campaign continues.

Trades unionists in Russia are appealing to teachers’ unions and professional associations in other countries to voice their solidarity with Teachers Against War.

■ Teachers’ unions and associations, at national, local or branch level: please contact Teachers Against War and indicate your support. The best way is to email directly to teachershelpnow[at]gmail.com (in English is fine). Or go via their website, telegram channel or facebook) and indicate your support.

Individual teachers: please join the Teachers Against War facebook group and send your own messages.

Here is the text of the teachers’ open letter, in English and then the Russian original. Below that is a letter posted on the Teachers Against War page from Igor Tsyvgintsev, a Ukrainian teacher, who this week evacuated most of his pupils to Poland.

Open letter by Russian schoolteachers against the war on Ukrainian territory

All wars have human victims, all wars cause destruction. War inevitably brings in its wake a mass of breaches of human rights. War is catastrophe.

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Russian feminists launch anti-war action

March 5, 2022

Here are two texts from the Feminist Anti-War Resistance telegram channel, addressed to opponents of the Russian war on Ukraine internationally

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March 8: laying flowers, all-Russian campaign

Note to readers outside Russia about the context. First, legislation signed by president Putin yesterday has made all open opposition to the war in Ukraine illegal, potentially punishable with long jail sentences. This is the context for the call to lay flowers at war memorials. Second, men presenting flowers to women on International Women’s Day was a universal practice in late Soviet times, in a patriarchal society in which women bore the “double burden” of paid work and household work. Especially among older Russians, this tradition persists to this day.

We, the women of Russia, refuse to celebrate the Eighth of March this year:

Don’t give us flowers, better to go out and lay them in memory of the dead civilians of Ukraine (about 300 people lost, there are children among them), against whom our country has unleashed aggressive military actions. Or lay the flowers already gifted at the monuments to the fallen: flowers are better than bullets.

From 12:00 to 16:00 o’clock, we invite everyone to lay the flowers at any monument to the Great Patriotic War [i.e. the second world war] in your city. Victims of that war are shamelessly used by the Putin government as a cover while it commits war crimes against civilians of another country.

Feminist Anti-War Resistance: “8 March: laying flowers”

Show the people of Ukraine, women, and children of Ukraine that you are grieving with them, show them that mothers and wives of Russia are not ready to receive their sons and husbands in zinc coffins. No, do not only show solidarity, fight to stop bloodshed!

March 8 is the day of struggle for women’s rights. Today we are fighting for peace for Ukrainian women and men, we are fighting for freedom for Russian political prisoners, among whom there are more and more women every year.

This year, March 8 is a day of rage and mourning for us: we ask you to come without posters and organize minutes of silence while at the monuments. The concept of today’s campaign is standing in solidarity.

For many years, the state propaganda machine has used May 9 [Victory Day, a public holiday that marks the Soviet victory over Germany in 1945] to its advantage. A thirst for war was hiding behind the ostentatious words of peace. We live in the reality of “we can repeat” instead of “never again”. This year March 8 is the new May 9: the day of struggle against militarism, imperial wars, and terrible losses on both sides.

We cannot guarantee that you will not be detained. We believe that if detentions happened at a mourning site, they will only demonstrate the lack of honor and any principles of this police state and an authoritarian regime.

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