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For an anti-imperialism in solidarity
Ukraine is not an imperialist state, but a young country whose independence and own nation-building Russia does not accept.
The governments of Europe and the United States share responsibility for the escalation of geopolitical tensions.
For an anti-imperialism in solidarity

Ukrainians are not executing NATO interests, but fighting for self-determination - demanding their surrender is grotesque

By Ilya Budraitskis, Oksana Dutchak, Harald Etzbach, Bernd Gehrke, Eva Gelinsky, Renate Hürtgen, Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski, Natalia Lomonosova, Hanna Perekhoda, Denys Pilash, Zakhar Popovych, Philipp Schmid, Przemysław Wielgosz, Christoph Wälz and Christian Zeller
[This article posted on 8/16/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

A group of people are sitting on chairs in a dark room in the Kries, a conversation is taking place, bright light shines through the windows in the background
The recommendation that people in Ukraine should work for an immediate ceasefire ignores the reality of the war and the Ukrainian left and is paternalistic and neocolonial, says the authors' group. Photo (from the May 2022 delegation trip to Lviv): ak

The debate about a position on the Ukrainian war within the German left has - after initial surprise and disorientation - become deadlocked. Analyses have been written and positions taken, and more than two camps have emerged. In ak, in the first months after the beginning of this war, we tried to document left-wing voices from Russia and Ukraine. In contrast, we have hardly covered the controversies within the German left so far - and there are positions that we will not offer any space to in ak in the future. But a discussion seems necessary to us. At the moment, we are not aiming to fix finalized positions, but rather to think through demands and questions to the end and to make weaknesses transparent. In ak 684 we publish two contributions that do not directly refer to each other (one text criticizes the previous reporting in ak, the other - this one - an article published in the junge Welt), but can nevertheless be read against each other. A contribution from the ak editorial team is in the works and should appear in the next issue.

On June 9, Heino Berg, Thies Gleiss, Jakob Schäfer, Matthias Schindler and Winfried Wolf published a detailed statement in the Junge Welt in which they advocate an "anti-militarist defeatism" and the abandonment of Ukraine's military resistance to the Russian war of occupation. The text is exemplary for an attitude widespread in large parts of the old peace movement and the anti-imperialist left, which only appears to be anti-imperialist, which bends the reality of the war to suit itself and ultimately argues in favor of the Putin regime. In doing so, it misses the mark by a mile in terms of an anti-imperialist perspective based on solidarity. We therefore take the article as an opportunity for a fundamental rebuttal of a necessary anti-imperialist ecosocialist perspective committed to global solidarity.

Of course, at the beginning of the text, the authors condemn the invasion of Ukraine "without any qualification or relativization." But subsequently they do just that: they relativize the aggression by reversing responsibility for the war: It is not Putin, who has repeatedly rejected any cease-fire beyond a surrender of Ukraine, who is responsible for the war, but the "regime" in Kyiv, which had offered negotiations on neutrality just a week before the Russian attack began.

Behind this reversal of responsibility lies a fundamental misjudgment of the Putin regime, whose character the authors do not even begin to try to define. On the contrary, they equate the proto-fascist Putin dictatorship with the corrupt bourgeois parliamentary democracy in Ukraine. For the authors, they are quite simply "two bourgeois states, both governed by an oligarchic system."

The character of the war

The Kremlin wants to prevent any independent development of Ukraine. The Putin leadership considers Ukraine, like Belarus, to be part of Russia. It has not reacted to one or another move by NATO; rather, it is pursuing fundamental goals with its war, which it justifies with its Great Russian ideology: the destruction of Ukraine as an independent country and its incorporation as "Little Russia."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's surprisingly strong resistance to the Russian invasion forces, both for the U.S. and European governments and for the Putin regime, prevented a rapid occupation of the country and the installation of a pro-Russian puppet government. It was only this determined resistance to the occupying forces that confronted the NATO countries with the question of comprehensive arms deliveries to Ukraine. Immediately after the war began, the U.S. and British governments advised Ukrainian President Selenskyj to leave the country and offered him protection. Like the leadership in the Kremlin, they expected a quick defeat.

With Ukraine's initially successful resistance to Russian occupation forces, Western imperialist powers, led by the U.S. and Britain, then recognized an opportunity to substantially weaken Russia's geopolitical position by strengthening Ukraine's military capabilities. The NATO leadership, however, seems to be interested neither in a long war nor in its escalation. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg explained the balancing process at a meeting in Finland on June 12: At some point, Ukraine will have to announce what territorial losses it is willing to accept and what democratic rights the population is willing to give up.

At the same time, it is obvious that European countries such as Germany and France, but also Austria and Switzerland, are giving Ukraine only limited support. They are seeking an understanding with the Russian oligarchy. Neither do they really supply the necessary weapons, nor do they relieve the bled-out Ukrainian society by writing off its debts. Major factions of capital in Europe, especially those linked to the fossil industries (Germany, Austria) and to the international commodity trade (Switzerland), have been doing highly profitable business with the Putin oligarchs for years. They would like to quickly return to normality and resume these businesses.

Ukraine is not an imperialist state, but a young country whose independence and own nation-building Russia does not accept.

The governments of Europe and the United States share responsibility for the escalation of geopolitical tensions, but not because of the alleged NATO encirclement of Russia that Russian propaganda painted on the wall and that many on the left in Europe have adopted. What is forgotten is that the expansion of NATO was essentially completed by 2004 with the accession of countries neighboring Russia. And, above all, that numerous countries in Eastern Europe sought NATO membership primarily out of fear of a strengthening Russian revanchism.

The real co-responsibility of the NATO states for the aggravation of the contradictions lies in their economic interest in the former Soviet republics. Capital in the imperialist countries of Europe and North America was not only looking for new NATO members, but primarily wanted to open up further markets and obtain cheap raw materials. For this, it needed governments that could organize the social transformation process properly and, if necessary, by force.

What would be the alternative?

The authors of the article in Junge Welt want to apply the defeatist position of Luxemburg, Liebknecht and Lenin in World War I to the current Russian war of occupation against the Ukrainian population. More appropriate would be a critical reflection on the justification of anti-colonial struggles. Ukraine is not an imperialist state, but a young country whose independence and own nation-building Russia does not accept and therefore has been attacking militarily since 2014.

The Ukrainian people are not waging a NATO "proxy war" against Russia, but are fighting for their own independence and for democratic and social rights that they would lose under Russian occupation. The devastating human rights situation in the so-called People's Republics in the Donbas is threat enough as a likely prospect under an occupying regime.

Of course, the war can only be understood in the context of the international rivalry between the major imperialist powers. The U.S. and NATO countries, with their rearmament offensive launched even before the Russian attack on Ukraine, are preparing for possible military conflicts with China and the intensified struggle for raw materials and ecological sinks. Therefore, it is obvious that the U.S. and European powers, even if they did not want the war, are trying to use it strategically for their goals. On May 19, the U.S. Senate passed a 40-billion program of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, making this the largest foreign aid package in at least two decades. Much of this sum, however, will be spent in the United States itself. That the U.S. and European governments are supplying weapons out of their own motivations, however, does not change the fact that Ukraine has the right to obtain weapons wherever it gets them.

After all, what would be the alternative? The authors of the article in Junge Welt hardly conceal their recommendation to Ukraine, and thus also to Ukrainian leftists, to surrender. Do they seriously think that a lively civil society or even militant trade unions can emerge under the conditions of a military occupation dictatorship? Are the Russian troops to be peacefully persuaded to leave in this way? This idea is grotesque, and the recommendations to the people of Ukraine derived from it are paternalistic and neocolonial. The authors thus demonstrate that they do not even want to discuss with the socialist, anarchist and feminist forces in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. They obviously do not take them seriously and do not make the slightest reference to them in their article.

Not only the authors, but also other intellectuals, celebrities and left-wing groups in Germany demand an immediate ceasefire. But as long as the conditions of such a ceasefire are not named, this perspective amounts to annexation and colonization of large parts of the country by Russia. It is possible that the governments of the Western imperialist states will sooner or later force Ukraine to give up sovereignty over large parts of the country in the east and south as part of a "negotiated settlement" and thus accept partial defeat. In this respect, those who are now calling for immediate negotiations are not so far removed from "their" imperialist governments.

A common perspective

Our solidarity is with the armed and unarmed resistance of the Ukrainian people against the Russian occupation forces. We especially support the feminists, socialists and anarchists who are taking part in this resistance with both civilian and military means. We stand in solidarity with the trade unions and social movements in Ukraine that oppose the neoliberal economic policies and stand up for a socio-ecological reconstruction. We naturally also stand with the socialist, feminist and anarchist forces in Russia and Belarus who are courageously resisting their rulers despite great dangers and risks.

At the same time, we oppose capital in our countries and reject the rearmament programs in Western Europe and NATO.

The withdrawal of all Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine is the condition for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Only on this basis can a process of understanding be opened between democratically elected representatives of the regions in eastern Ukraine and the government in Kyiv under international observation. We will work to ensure that the Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs' assets hidden and invested in European countries are identified and used for humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Ukraine. Ukraine is heavily indebted. The war makes independent economic development impossible. Therefore, Ukraine's debts must be cancelled.

At the same time, we oppose the capital in our countries that continues to do business with the Putin oligarchs, and we reject the recently decided and prepared rearmament programs in Western Europe and NATO. These serve not the victory of the Ukrainian people in their struggle for existence against Russia, but their own longer-term imperialist goals in the rivalry for resources. We advocate the dissolution of NATO and the Russian-dominated military alliance CSTO. Instead, we are in favor of building a democratic and collective security system. The arms industry in the West and East must be continuously dismantled and converted into socially useful and ecologically compatible industries.

We support the climate movement's demand for a phase-out of Russian oil and gas as a step toward a complete phase-out of fossil fuels. The Putin regime must no longer be allowed to finance its war machine with the help of revenues from oil and gas transactions and the sale of mineral raw materials. The price increases of energy must be countered with an inexpensive basic social supply of energy for wage earners, progressive pricing for high energy consumption and comprehensive energy-saving measures. In order to enforce this perspective, we want to work with the climate movement and grassroots trade union initiatives to build a movement for social appropriation and for the ecological conversion and dismantling of the large fossil corporations.

Those who now tolerate a Russian victory also tolerate a victory for "domestic" fossil and commodity-based capital, which is closely intertwined with the Russian fossil and extractive sectors. Therefore, a new anti-militarist movement must uphold solidarity with both the civil and armed resistance of the Ukrainian people, as well as with the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian leftists who oppose the Putin regime's war.

The authors are a collective of left activists from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A more detailed and referenced version of this discussion piece appears in the journal Emancipation.
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