Ukraine: ‘condemn Russia’s imperialist threat’

January 24, 2022

Ukrainian socialists are urging international unity against the Russian government’s imperialist policies that threaten a new war.

The Social Movement, a group of mainly labour activists in Ukraine, calls in a statement for “solidarity with people who have suffered from the war that has lasted almost eight years, and who may suffer from a new one”.

The statement expresses “gratitude and solidarity to Russian left-wing activists who oppose the imperialist policies of the Kremlin and are fighting for democratic and social transformations in their country”.

“Our house was stolen by war”: one of Ukraine’s 1.5 million internally displaced people. Photo from commons.com.ua

The Social Movement denounces the “myth, popular among some Western leftists”, that the Russian-supported “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk are “the result of popular will”. Their statement says:

The heads of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” are integrated into the ranks of the ruling elite of the Russian Federation and have become the mouthpiece of the Kremlin’s most aggressive predatory sentiments. In the “republics” themselves, any opposition political activity, even the most loyal to the Russian government, is suppressed.

In my view, this statement would be a good place to start discussion about how to build solidarity in the face of war, with working-class communities in Ukraine, and with labour and social movements there. So would the principled statement of opposition to Putin’s war drive by the Russian Socialist Movement, which I posted just before the new year.

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Russia and Ukraine: “militarism and nationalism are lethally dangerous drugs”

December 29, 2021

The danger of renewed Russian military action in Ukraine is growing. The build-up of Russian armed forces on the border, near to the Russian-supported separatist “republics” in Donetsk and Lugansk, is alarming Ukrainians. They have already suffered more than six years of war during which 14,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced from their homes.

Central to the Kremlin’s approach is to keep the western powers guessing. President Putin has raged against NATO, despite senior western politicians making it quite clear that they would not commit troops to defend Ukraine from an invasion.

There are some reasons to believe that Putin is aiming not for war, but for a negotiation with the US – and initial talks have been fixed for January. But the preparations on the border continue nonetheless.

In the face of a possible major land war in Europe, socialists and internationalists across the continent have a responsibility to speak out, to be at the forefront of the anti-war movement. We must act in solidarity both with the Ukrainian communities that face the physical danger of Russian military action, and the so far small number of Russian voices being raised against war.

Demonstration in Kirov, Russia, on 18 December. “No to war: no to Putin”; “Hands off Ukraine”. Photo from Guildhall (ghall.com.ua)

With this in mind, I have translated these two articles. The first is a statement opposing war, by the Russian Socialist Movement. The second is a blog post by the Ukrainian community activist, trade union organiser and lawyer Pavel Lisyansky.

This is the Russian Socialist Movement’s statement, published on facebook on 7 December.

On 4 December, the Associated Press, citing information from the US intelligence services, reported that Russia was preparing to put 175,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. “[Deploying] Russian armed forces on Russian territory – that’s the legal right of a sovereign state”, responded Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, without denying the build-up of forces on the border.

Along with the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, these actions are an episode in the cynical and dangerous geopolitical game of Russian and the west, in which millions of working people in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and other countries are being held hostage. This sabre-rattling is not only an attempt to push other states into retreat. Behind it also stands the aspirations of the elite to “rally the nation” once again around the Putin regime, as it did in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea.

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Putin’s little helpers undermine solidarity

December 29, 2021

We know what solidarity in the face of war looks like. It looks like the Grupa Granica, set up to support those stranded on the Polish border by the government’s vicious anti-migrant policy and the Belarussian government’s cynical manipulation of refugees.

It looks like the thousands of Polish people who have demonstrated, demanding “stop the torture at the border”. And it looks like the solidarity networks set up further afield (including the Solidarity Without Borders appeal for cash to support groups on the spot).

To those supporting refugees – whether in Poland or Belarus, or in the English Channel, targeted by the UK government’s murderous crackdown – it makes no difference which war people are fleeing. It might be the US-UK-supported war in Iraq, or the bloodbath perpetrated in Syria by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Now, we face the possibility of renewed Russian military action in Ukraine. This carries the greatest threat of war in Europe since the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

Demonstration in Warsaw, October 2021, to “stop torture on the border”. Photo by Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

The war in eastern Ukraine in 2014-15 has already caused 2 million or more people to flee their homes: more than 1 million now counted as “internally displaced” in Ukraine; at least as many have crossed the border to Russia. A new conflict would be both a human tragedy and a threat to social movements.

Solidarity is needed. An anti-war movement is needed.

Already, pro-Putin propaganda – that corrodes parts of the so-called “left”, as well as thriving on the extreme right – is being dialled up. It seeks to justify Russia’s military preparations. And it could endanger efforts to galvanise anti-war protest.

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