Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ukraine ‘peace summit’ falters amidst growing international disunity

Russian and Ukrainian socialists issue joint appeal for solidarity, social and ecological reconstruction of Ukraine

 A peace conference initiated by Ukraine and hosted by Switzerland met June 15-16 with the participation of 57 heads of state and government, including Canada. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy had hoped the meeting would rally support for his 10-point peace plan released in October 2022, six months after the outset of Russia’s full-scale armed invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent occupation and annexation of about 20 percent of the country. However, the joint communiqué issued at its conclusion expressed “a common vision” on only three aspects: nuclear safety, global food security, and complete exchange of all prisoners of war and return to Ukraine of all Ukrainian civilians, including children, unlawfully detained or displaced by Russia.

The adopted text reiterated support for UN resolutions[1] affirming “the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine, within their internationally recognized borders, including territorial waters, and the resolution of disputes through peaceful means as principles of international law.” However, it failed to commit the participating governments to any substantial program of economic reconstruction assistance to Ukraine, let alone cancellation of its enormous international public debt. Moreover, several countries from the expanded BRICS alliance – led by Brazil, India, and South Africa – abstained. China refused to attend the conference and Russia, of course, was not invited.

Russian president Vladimir Putin sought to refocus international attention on Russia’s absence from the summit through a statement June 14 reaffirming Russia’s supposed “willingness to negotiate” -- on terms tantamount to Ukraine’s capitulation. And Zelensky alleged that China had sought to persuade some countries not to attend. Such is “multipolarity” in today’s global context.

Socialists in Ukraine, Russia and Switzerland sought to supplement the ambitions of the official peace conference from an alternative internationalist perspective based on solidarity and oriented toward a radical social and ecological transformation in Europe as a whole. They drafted a joint declaration in support of Ukrainian self-determination and in favour of the democratic overthrow of the Putin regime. The declaration, with its 12 principles for a just peace in Ukraine, is reproduced below. As its authors indicated, its purpose is to “stimulate comprehensive discussions on national self-determination, inter-imperialist rivalry, geopolitical bloc thinking, rearmament, anti-imperialist and ecosocialist strategies and in general emancipatory working-class mobilizations, particularly with progressive social movements such as the feminist movement, the environmental movement, migration solidarity and trade unions.”

They started this discussion with an online conference on June 15, at which speakers from the launching organizations presented the major content and goal of the declaration and suggested ideas for further political discussion and collaboration. A dominant theme of this discussion, which I attended, was the need for the international Left to develop a comprehensive alternative ecosocialist strategy to capitalist multipolarity and imperialist rivalry. More than one participant noted the importance of the agreement just reached by France’s left parties, hastily assembled as a “New Popular Front,” to contest the snap legislative elections called by Macron around a program that included as a “common denominator” the pledge to “defend steadfastly Ukrainian sovereignty through the delivery of needed weapons.”

-- Richard Fidler

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 Ukraine: A People's Peace, not an Imperial Peace

 Joint declaration by ecosocialist, anarchist, feminist, environmental organisations, and groups in solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance and for a self-determined social and ecological reconstruction of Ukraine

The Swiss government will hold an international conference for a peace process in Ukraine on 15 and 16 June 2024 on the mountain Bürgenstock, close to Lucerne. The Ukrainian government supports this conference.

 his conference is taking place in a decisive phase of the war. For months, the Russian invasion forces have been hitting gaps in the Ukrainian defences and pushing them back, with heavy losses of their own. The Russian leadership has announced a major offensive and is attacking the people in Kharkiv, a city of millions.

We support all steps towards a peace that enables the Ukrainian people to rebuild the country in a self-determined manner. Peace requires the complete withdrawal of the Russian occupying forces from the entire territory of Ukraine. With this in mind, we hope that the peace conference in Switzerland will contribute to the restoration of Ukraine's sovereignty.

The conditions for this are extremely difficult. The representatives of the Putin regime regularly declare that they do not recognise an independent Ukraine and deny the existence of the Ukrainian people. The Putin regime purses a Great Russian project, subjugates the people in the occupied territories with terror and aims to eradicate the Ukrainian culture. The ruling regime in Russia regularly commits war crimes against the Ukraine population. The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, launched on 24 February 2022, not only calls Ukraine's independence into question. It also encourages other authoritarian regimes to threaten neighbouring populations, occupy territories and massively expel people. In order to avoid resistance at home, the Russian army is now also recruiting people from neighbouring countries and the Global South to serve as cannon fodder.

Due to the massive – and surprising – resistance of the Ukrainian population, the governments of Europe and North America began to support the Ukrainian army in its defence against the Russian occupying forces. However, they are backing Ukraine to assert their own interests in the global imperialist rivalry. The US aim to weaken its Russian counterpart while showing strength against rising China and setting the pace for the European powers which are both partners and rivals. But despite the US Congress finally approving a comprehensive aid package for Ukraine on 20 April 2024, which had been blocked by the Republican Party for nine months, the support for Ukraine has always remained selective and insufficient.

Similarly, the economic sanctions that have been imposed by the EU and US governments against Russia and the exponents of the Putin regime are selective, inadequately targeted, and insufficient. They do not prevent Russia from continuing to export oil and gas, along with other strategically important raw materials, to fill its war chest. Some European countries have even significantly increased their imports of LNG from Russia since the start of the war. Others, such as Austria, obtain over 90% of their natural gas imports from Russia. The governments of these countries are forcing gas consumers to finance Putin’s war against the Ukrainian population.

The Swiss government, the host of the peace conference, has not only been giving tax breaks to Russian oligarchs for decades, it has also refused to confiscate the assets of these oligarchs since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. As a major hub of international commodities trading, Switzerland has offered Russian capital excellent opportunities to acquire wealth for many years. Many bourgeois politicians have gladly welcomed these businesses in Switzerland. Through the sale of dual-use products, Switzerland contributes to equipping the Russian war machine. And finally, the Swiss financial sector facilitates the trade of Russian oil.

Both in the US and in Europe, there is a growing number of voices in the political and economic establishment who want to tie their support for Ukraine to certain conditions. They aim to pressure Ukraine to cede large territories and several million people to the Putin regime. Such a peace, enforced by major imperial powers, would strengthen the Putin regime and fail to provide a basis for a lasting democratic reconstruction of Ukraine.

We need a peace that is based on, as well as supported by, the interests of the people and of workers in Ukraine and Russia. Such a perspective can only succeed if trade unions, women’s organisations, environmental initiatives and various civil society organisations from both Ukraine and Russia play a leading role in the peace talks.

Occupation is a crime! We are guided by the principles of self-liberation, emancipation, and self-determination of working-class and all oppressed peoples beyond geopolitical considerations. In this sense, we also stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have been fighting for their self-determination for decades. Likewise, we support the Kurdish and Armenian peoples and all other peoples threatened by occupation, national and cultural oppression.

Based on our positioning, supporting the Ukrainian resistance against the Russian occupation, we want to contribute to developing a common European perspective for radical socioecological reforms and ultimately for an ecosocialist transformation of the entire European continent in global solidarity.

By submitting this declaration for discussion, we want to contribute to a transnational process of understanding and political clarification among those left-wing forces throughout Europe and beyond that share these important convictions.


12 Principles for a Just Peace in Ukraine in a Europe based on Solidarity and Ecology

We, the undersigned organisations and initiatives, want to promote a peace process that adheres to the following 12 principles.

1. Achieving a socially just and ecologically sustainable peace requires the unconditional and complete withdrawal of Russian occupying forces from Ukraine, returning the entire territory to its internationally recognized borders.

2. Russia is systematically destroying cities, infrastructure, and the environment to demoralise the population and trigger a large wave of refugees. Against this daily terror, we demand that the “Western” governments support Ukraine in protecting its population and infrastructure against the bombing and missile attacks of the Russian occupying power. We are in favour of massive humanitarian, economic and military support for Ukraine from the rich states in Europe. The Ukrainian population urgently needs protection from Russian bombs and rockets.

3. We oppose attempts by “Western” governments, NATO and EU exponents to pressure Ukraine into making massive concessions to the Russian occupying power. We oppose the idea that Ukraine must cede several million people to the Putin regime. It is only up to the Ukrainian people to decide how to confront this atrocious situation of ongoing and possibly increasing occupation. We support the armed and unarmed resistance of Ukrainians against the Russian occupying power.

4. We demand that all Russians who refuse military service be granted secure residence status in the countries of Europe and North America. Mass desertion is important to weaken the Russian war machine.

5. We support the political struggle of Ukrainian trade unions, women’s organisations, and environmental initiatives against the neoliberal anti-labour policies of the government under President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. These policies undermine Ukraine’s socially broad-based defence against Russian occupation and render a socially just and ecologically sustainable reconstruction impossible.

6. We stand in solidarity with the anti-war movement, democratic opposition, and independent labour struggles in Russia. We also stand in solidarity with the oppressed nationalities in Russia who suffer particularly badly from the war and fight for their self-determination. It is their youth that is being exploited as cannon fodder by the Putin regime. These movements are a key factor for achieving a just peace and a democratic Russia.

7. Russia has imprisoned numerous people from Ukraine as political prisoners. Many have been sentenced to decades in prison and penal camps. We demand their unconditional release. We demand that the International Red Cross be allowed to maintain regular contact with all prisoners of war. The exchange and release of prisoners of war is a prerequisite for any just peace.

8. Russia must pay reparations to the Ukrainian people. The oligarchs of Russia and Ukraine must be expropriated. Their assets must be made available to the reconstruction of Ukraine and, once the Putin regime falls to the democratic development of Russia.

9. We demand that the “Western” governments immediately cancel Ukraine's debts. This is a crucial condition for the sovereign reconstruction of the country. The rich states of Europe and North America must set up comprehensive and broad-based support programmes for the Ukrainian people and the reconstruction of the country. This reconstruction must take place under the democratic control of the population, trade unions, environmental initiatives, feminist organisations and organized neighbourhoods in the cities and villages.

10. We oppose all projects of the European and Northern American governments, as well as international organisations, to impose a neoliberal economic agenda on the Ukrainian people. This would prolong and deepen poverty and suffering. We also denounce all efforts to sell off the property and assets of the Ukrainian population to foreign corporations. The recovery and reorganisation of agriculture, industry, energy systems and the entire social infrastructure must serve the socio-ecological transformation of Ukraine, not the supply of cheap labour, grain and hydrogen to Western European countries.

11. An effective military support of Ukraine does not require a new wave of armaments. We oppose NATO’s rearmament programmes and weapon exports to third countries. Instead, the countries of Europe and North America must provide the weapons from their existing, huge arsenals that will help Ukraine to defend itself effectively. In this sense, we demand that the arms industry should not serve the profit interests of capital – to the contrary, we want to work towards the social appropriation of the arms industry. This industry should serve the immediate interests of Ukraine. At the same time, for social and urgent ecological reasons, we underline the imperative of democratically converting the arms industry into socially useful production on a global scale.

12. We want to initiate a debate on a radical reorganisation of Europe. We want to contribute to developing a common European perspective for radical socio-ecological reforms, and ultimately for a fundamental ecosocialist transformation of the entire European continent in global solidarity. Within this framework, we support the will of the Ukrainian people to join the EU, even though we reject the EU’s neoliberal foundations that impoverish millions of people and promote unequal development in Europe. We take the perspective of an accession of several countries in Eastern Europe and South-East Europe as an opportunity to reflect together on how such a radical socio-ecological change can be initiated throughout Europe, including a common energy strategy, ecological industrial conversion, pay-as-you-go unfunded pension systems, social labour regulation, solidarity-based migration policy, interregional transfer payments, and military security along with the conversion of the armaments industry. Trade union, feminist, ecological, anti-authoritarian left and socialist forces in Eastern Europe should play an important role in this debate.

This declaration has been launched jointly by Sotsialnyi Rukh (Social Movement) in Ukraine, Posle Media Collective in Russia, Bewegung für den Sozialismus / Movement for socialism and solidarity in Switzerland. 

We invite all interested organisations, groups, initiatives, media collectives and individuals to circulate and sign this declaration by 30 June. Please send confirmation of your signing to: and

 Individuals, please, sign here:

 For an initial list of organizations and individuals who have signed the declaration, see

[1] Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 2 March 2022, ES-11/1. Aggression against Ukraine; and Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 23 February 2023, ES-11/6. Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

[2] Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 2 March 2022, ES-11/1. Aggression against Ukraine; and Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 23 February 2023, ES-11/6. Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Ukraine’s fight for freedom: a socialist case for solidarity and self-determination

Historian and activist Paul Le Blanc offers an essential socialist perspective on the Russia-Ukraine war, arguing for solidarity with Ukraine's fight for self-determination while opposing the imperialist agendas of both Russia and Western powers. Drawing on history and revolutionary principles, Le Blanc makes the case that the democratic and socialist left must stand with Ukraine's resistance by any means necessary. The text is based on a talk that Le Blanc delivered on April 15, 2024. First published at Anti*Capitalist Resistance.

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It is necessary for those who support socialism and democracy to support Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion of their country.  Here I want to offer some historical and political background as to why I think this is so. 

There have been many economic, political, and cultural similarities between Russia and Ukraine – in part because Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire since the reign of Catherine the Great in the late 1700s.  The Russian Empire was long known by revolutionaries as “a prison-house of nations” precisely because it was made up of the gradual conquest and forced absorption of multiple nations and peoples into an expanding territory dominated by the powerful, violent authoritarian monarchy of the Tsars.

The economy was initially a form of feudalism, in which a mass of peasants were brutally exploited by a wealthy minority of hereditary land-owning nobles, supported by the Tsarist regime.  In the course of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, the Tsars also sought to advance a process of capitalist industrialization throughout the Empire, to make Russia more competitive – economically and militarily – in the global power struggles of the time.

This had the unintended consequence, however, of helping to generate socialist and labor movements that were increasingly drawn to the banner of Marxism, and which culminated in the Communist revolution of 1917 led by Lenin and his comrades which – after a three-year civil war – replaced both feudalism and capitalism with what many hoped would blossom into a socialist economy.  Instead, as the regime of Lenin gave way to that of Joseph Stalin, a bureaucratic-authoritarian order dominated most of what had been the Russian Empire, including what is now Russia and now Ukraine.  A state-controlled “Command Economy” drove forward, through brutal means, the modernization of the economy of what became known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR). 

Despite the economic gains of this new system, it was beset by deep-rooted contradictions and instabilities.  These were related to the oppressiveness of the bureaucratic system, with its systematic violations of human rights and popular aspirations; it was also related to ongoing hostility and economic rivalry from highly advanced capitalist sections of the world.  Such problems and pressures eventually led to the collapse of the economic and political system of the USSR.  One aspect of this collapse was a resurgent nationalism which caused the break-away of oppressed territories out of the old “prison-house of nations,” leading for example to the independence of Ukraine in 1991. The collapse also involved elements in the upper strata of the bureaucratic dictatorship embracing a transition back to capitalism, while taking what had been publicly owned resources and wealth into their own hands.  The rise of these capitalist “Oligarchs” occurred throughout the disintegrating USSR – in Ukraine and Russia alike.  The economy of both has been privatized, giving rise to domination by these self-interested economic oligarchs. This is combined with breath-taking corruption and soaring inequality, at the expense of the great majority of Russians and Ukrainians.  Such capitalism, in the period of the Russia-Ukraine war, is the dominant mode of production on both sides.

Some elements in the nationalist resurgence in the former USSR had connection with old versions of extreme right-wing, authoritarian, racist (often antisemitic) nationalism prevalent throughout Eastern Europe – very much including in Ukraine and Tsarist Russia.  While this was antithetical to Marxist and Communist ideology, since the collapse of Communism it has sometimes taken the form of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi ideologies and organizations, particularly on the war front, and on both sides.  Serious analysts, however, note that this is marginal – as would make sense, given the horrific experience of the murderous Nazi onslaught during World War II.

On the other hand, there are significant differences between the Putin and Zelensky regimes — as well as one significant similarity: that neither is worthy of socialist support.

We can look first at Russia.  When Boris Yeltsin displaced the reforming Communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev, leading to the destruction of the USSR, he introduced transition policies marked by corruption, chaos, and the downward spiral of the economy and of Russian living standards.  This was accompanied by the ballooning power of the Oligarchs. 

Out of this catastrophic situation, Vladimir Putin came to power, imposing a so-called “managed democracy” and a regulated capitalism.  The Oligarchs were cut down to size, forced to follow new rules set by Putin’s state. 

Putin and those close to him were able to secure their hold of colossal wealth, but in order to justify the increased centralization of political power and to provide an ideological rationale for an increasingly unified Russian state, they voiced the conservative ideals from the old Tsarist order: Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. By “Orthodoxy” such ideologists referred to the dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church.  By “Autocracy” they referred to a despotic regime that does not tolerate challenges to its authority and makes use of brutally violent Cossacks and other repressive forces to intimidate critics and crush all serious dissent. By “Nationality” they referred to the aggressive domination of a vast empire in which all ethnic groups were to abandon their distinctive cultures and languages, adopting instead those of a unified Great Russia.  Putin has explained his outlook in terms such as these.

One source of Putin’s power he owed to his largely (but not entirely) inept predecessor Boris Yeltsin.  Yeltsin found himself challenged, in his inegalitarian and corrupt policies of capitalist transition, by a semi-democratic parliament established in the wake of Communism’s collapse. With support from the army, he rode roughshod over Russia’s parliament, finally physically assaulting it and ordering its dissolution. He pushed through a new constitution that created an authoritarian executive branch of government to enable him to rule by decree.  This paved the way for Putin’s later mode of operation, prevalent today.

This kind of political centralization and authoritarianism did not crystallize in Ukraine, although as Yuliya Yurchenko tells us an “authoritarian neoliberal kleptocracy” – not brought to heal by a figure like Putin – has continued to shape policies in Ukraine, at the expense of a majority of the country’s laboring people.  Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was elected on an anti-corruption platform, yet the assessment of the Zelensky government offered by Social Movement activist Vladyslav Starodubtsev is shared by many Ukrainian socialists:

Even before the war, this has been one of the most popular governments Ukraine has had — which is not saying anything good about it, it was just not as awful as the previous ones. Zelensky’s party, Servant of the People, has become the most progressive party in parliament on social issues such as LGBTQ rights, opposing violence against women, and so on. But most of these policies have been promoted with European integration in mind, and not because the party is itself progressive.

On the economic front, Zelensky’s party has a market fundamentalist orientation, adopting neoliberal legislation to deregulate labor relations, which has weakened the power of collective labor contracts and trade unions. Due to its market fundamentalist outlook, it views trade unions and any form of economic democracy as harmful to economic development.

We also must consider the global framework of the conflict, which involves the centrality of imperialism to world politics.  Those who believe in socialism and democracy — rule by the people over our economic and political life — must oppose it.  By imperialism, I am referring to military and/or political and/or economic expansion beyond the borders of one’s own country for the purpose of ensuring the well-being of one’s economy, including the need to secure markets, raw materials and investment opportunities.  US imperialism is a reality in our world. This has been so at least since the 1890s, although it could be argued that this has been the case since the 1790s.  But neither Lenin nor Rosa Luxemburg saw imperialism as representing a single evil country, but rather all countries in our epoch — oppressed by competing and contending elites of the so-called “Great Powers” — and reflecting the capitalist dynamics of the global economy. Both Lenin and Luxemburg saw imperialism as very much including both the US and Russia. That remains the case today.

Focusing for a moment on US imperialism, one must understand that a key imperialist instrument is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  It is a military alliance designed in 1949 to contain and push back the threat to capitalist interests represented by the Soviet Union and possible revolutionary insurgencies. Yet another instrument of capitalist expansion and stability has been the European Union (EU).  Both NATO and the EU figure into a shrewd analysis developed by political scientist John Mearsheimer, an influential critic of recent US foreign policy. He asserts that US policymakers “have moved forward to include Ukraine in the West to make Ukraine a Western bulwark on Russia’s border.”  He sees NATO expansion and EU expansion as seeking to make Ukraine into a pro-American liberal democracy, at the expense of Russian power interests.

There are irreconcilable differences between Mearsheimer’s liberal-realist outlook and the revolutionary socialist approach of Lenin, which influences my own approach.   I want to conclude by describing what amounts to a debate between Mearsheimer and Lenin.  

Mearsheimer notes that the US power elite, when finding itself in a similar situation to that of Putin today, has overthrown “democratically elected leaders in the Western hemisphere during the Cold War because we were unhappy with their policies. This is the way great powers behave.”  He sees as reasonable, therefore, Putin’s desire “to install in Kyiv a pro-Russian government, a government that is attuned to Moscow’s interests.”  He believes that the US government and the Russian government can and should negotiate in way that respects each other’s “interests,” and work out a compromise consistent with those interests.

Lenin’s revolutionary Marxist approach is different from that of Mearsheimer.  He emphasizes the reality of class conflict, refusing to blur all classes together with the governments of their specific countries.  The foreign policies of the “great powers” are always in the interest of privileged and wealthy elites, and at the expense of the laboring majorities.  He absolutely rejects the right of “great powers” to insist on having their way. 

Mearsheimer tells us: “In an ideal world, it would be wonderful if the Ukrainians were free to choose their own political system and to choose their own foreign policy.  But,” he admonishes, “in the real world, that is not feasible. The Ukrainians have a vested interest in paying serious attention to what the Russians want from them. They run a grave risk if they alienate the Russians in a fundamental way.”

No, Lenin responds.  In an ideal world, the Ukrainians would have the right to self-determination – for a free and independent Ukraine, for political and economic democracy and a decent life for all.  True, in the “real world” such things are not feasible.  But instead of bowing to one’s oppressor, one should demand “the impossible” and fight to make what is “ideal” the new reality.  This will mean fighting against Putin’s invasion, just as it will mean fighting against Zelensky’s neoliberalism.  And one thing more – among “the Russians” there are people like us who hunger for political and economic democracy and a decent life for all.  And there are such people among the Western Europeans, among the peoples of the Americas and Asia and Africa.  The struggle must include all of us if we are to have a truly ideal world.

I want to add a couple of extra minutes to my presentation in order to take up an important question.  Where will Ukrainian freedom fighters get their arms?  They will get their arms wherever they can, however they can – otherwise their fight for freedom will inevitably go down to bloody defeat at the hands of their oppressors.

This life-or-death question has come up time and again down through history.  And freedom fighters sometimes acquire such arms from rivals of their oppressors, even from sources representing the opposite of what one is fighting for.

One of many examples can be found in the American Revolution of 1775-83. [1] Money, arms and direct military support from the French monarchy helped anti-colonial revolutionaries of North America to break free from the British monarchy. Some argue that imperialist powers provide such assistance to manipulate the situation for their own advantage. Absolutely — that is what imperialists always do.  But revolutionaries and freedom fighters also seek to manipulate the situation for the advantage of their cause.

This leads to my final point.  It would have been a mistake for American revolutionaries, in exchange for French assistance, to violate revolutionary principles by integrating themselves into the French Empire — just as it would be a mistake for revolutionaries of today to integrate themselves into NATO. But it is not a mistake, in a life and death struggle, for freedom fighters to accept weapons from either the French monarchy of 1778 or from nations belonging to NATO today.  If the cause of revolutionaries and freedom fighters is just, they will be inclined to struggle for victory by any means necessary.

[1] Among examples worth exploring from the 20th century: the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-36, the Spanish Civil War of 1935-39, the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45, numerous anti-colonial struggles from the 1940s through the 1970s.

Paul Le Blanc is the author of works on the labour and socialist movements, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (1990), From Marx to Gramsci (1996), and Leon Trotsky (2015). He is an editor of the eight-volume International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest, and a co-editor of The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg.

See also:

Ireland and Ukraine’s Struggle for Independence, 1916-1923,

Monday, May 6, 2024

Havana conference maps plans for a new international economic order

“The climate crisis cannot be solved within capitalism, and the sooner we face up to this fact the better.” – Jason Hickel.

Viva La Solidaridad Cubano-Palestina is emblematic of Cuba’s longstanding solidarity with Palestine – which predates this poster made by Marc Rudin in 1989 and still stands today.

Meeting in Havana, Cuba on April 28 to May 1, leading scholars, diplomats and policy-makers from 36 countries mapped plans to present a program of action for establishment of a New International Economic Order that will be presented to the September meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Havana conference – co-convened by the Progressive International and the Asociación Nacional de Economistas y Contadores de Cuba – marked the 50th anniversary of an earlier version of the New International Economic Order (NIEO), a set of proposals to end economic colonialism and dependency adopted by the UN on May 1, 1974.

A keynote speaker at the Havana conference was Jason Hickel. He teaches at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) in Barcelona and is a visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics. Hickel is best-known, perhaps for his book Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (2020), which presents degrowth as an anticapitalist alternative to ecological imperialism and unequal exchange.

I will say more about the Havana congress following Hickel’s address, which I thank the Progressive International for making available. – Richard Fidler

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Climate, Energy and Natural Resources

By Jason Hickel

Thank you to Progressive International for organizing this event, and thank you to our Cuban hosts, who have kept this revolution alive against extraordinary odds. The US blockade against Cuba, like the genocide in Gaza, is a constant reminder of the egregious violence of the imperialist world order and why we must overcome it.

So too is the ecological crisis. Comrades, I do not need to tell you about the severity of the situation we are in. It stares every sane observer in the face. But the dominant analysis of this crisis and what to do about it is woefully inadequate. We call it the Anthropocene, but we must be clear: it is not humans as such that are causing this crisis. Ecological breakdown is being driven by the capitalist economic system, and – like capitalism itself – is strongly characterized by colonial dynamics.

This is clear when it comes to climate change. The countries of the global North are responsible for around 90% of all cumulative emissions in excess of the safe planetary boundary – in other words, the emissions that are driving climate breakdown. By contrast the global South, by which I mean all of Asia, Africa and Latin America, are together responsible for only about 10%, and in fact most global South countries remain within their fair shares of the planetary boundary and have therefore not contributed to the crisis at all.

And yet, the overwhelming majority of the impacts of climate breakdown are set to affect the territories of the global South, and indeed this is already happening. The South suffers 80-90% of the economic costs and damages inflicted by climate breakdown, and around 99% of all climate-related deaths. It would be difficult to overstate the scale of this injustice. With present policy, we are headed for around 3 degrees of global warming. At this level some 2 billion people across the tropics will be exposed to extreme heat and substantially increased mortality risk; droughts will destabilize agricultural systems and lead to multi-breadbasket failures; and hundreds of millions of people will be displaced from their homes.

Climate breakdown is a process of atmospheric colonization. The atmosphere is a shared commons, on which all of us depend for our existence, and the core economies have appropriated it for their own enrichment, with devastating consequences for all of life on Earth, which are playing out along colonial lines. For the global South in particular, this crisis is existential and it must be stopped.

But so far our ruling classes are failing to do this. In 2015 the world’s governments agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees or “well below” 2 degrees, while upholding the principle of equity. To achieve this goal, high-income countries, which have extremely high per capita emissions, must achieve extremely rapid decarbonization.

This is not occurring. In fact, at existing rates, even the best-performing high-income countries will take on average more than 200 years to bring emissions to zero, burning their fair-shares of the Paris-compliant carbon budget many times over. Dealing with the climate crisis is not complicated. We know exactly what needs to be done, but we are not doing it. Why? Because of capitalism.

If I wish to get one point across today, it is this: the climate crisis cannot be solved within capitalism, and the sooner we face up to this fact the better. Let me briefly describe what I mean.

The core defining feature of capitalism is that it is fundamentally anti-democratic. Yes, many of us live in democratic political systems, where we get to elect candidates from time to time. But when it comes to the economic system, the system of production, not even the shallowest illusion of democracy is allowed to enter. Production is controlled by capital: large corporations, commercial banks, and the 1% who own the majority of investible assets… they are the ones who determine what to produce and how to use our collective labour and our planet’s resources.

And for capital, the purpose of production is not to meet human needs or achieve social and ecological objectives. Rather, it is to maximize and accumulate profit. That is the overriding objective. So we get perverse patterns of investment: massive investment in producing things like fossil fuels, SUVs, fast fashion, industrial beef, cruise ships and weapons, because these things are highly profitable to capital… but we get chronic underinvestment in necessary things like renewable energy, public transit and regenerative agriculture, because these are much less profitable to capital or not profitable at all. This is a critically important point to grasp. In many cases renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels! But they have much lower profit margins, because they are less conducive to monopoly power. So investment keeps flowing to fossil fuels, even while the world burns.

Relying on capital to deliver an energy transition is a dangerously bad strategy. The only way to deal with this crisis is with public planning. On the one hand, we need massive public investment in renewable energy, public transit and other decarbonization strategies. And this should not just be about derisking private capital – it should be about public production of public goods. To do this, simply issue the national currency to mobilize the productive forces for the necessary objectives, on the basis of need not on the basis of profit.

Now, massive public investment like this could drive inflation if it bumps up against the limits of the national productive capacity. To avoid this problem you need to reduce private demands on the productive forces. First, cut the purchasing power of the rich; and second, introduce credit regulations on commercial banks to limit their investments in ecologically destructive sectors that we want to get rid of anyway: fossil fuels, SUVs, fast fashion, etc.

What this does is it shifts labour and resources away from servicing the interests of capital accumulation and toward achieving socially and ecologically necessary objectives. This is a socialist ecological strategy, and it is the only thing that will save us. Solving the ecological crisis requires achieving democratic control over the means of production. We need to be clear about this fact and begin building now the political movements that are necessary to achieve such a transformation.

Now, it should be obvious to everyone at this point that for the global South, this requires economic sovereignty. You cannot do ecological planning if you do not have sovereign control over your national productive forces! Struggle for national economic liberation is the precondition for ecological transition, and it can be achieved with the steps that my colleagues Ndongo and Fadhel have outlined: industrial policy, regional planning, and progressive delinking from the imperial core.

So that is the horizon. But at the same time we must advance our multilateral bargaining positions. This is what we need to do:

First, we need to push for universal adoption of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. This treaty overcomes the major limitation of the Paris Agreement in that it focuses squarely on the objective of scaling down the fossil fuel industry on a binding annual schedule. The objective here is to do this in a fair and just way: rich countries must lead with rapid reductions, global South countries must be guaranteed access to sufficient energy for development, and those that are dependent on fossil fuel exports for foreign currency must be provided with a safe offramp that prevents any economic instability.

Second, global South negotiators must collaborate to demand much faster decarbonization in the global North, consistent with their fair-shares of the remaining carbon budget.

Third, we must demand substantial resource transfers to the global South. Because the global North has devoured most of the carbon budget, it owes compensation to the global South for the additional mitigation costs that this imposes on them. Our research shows that this is set to be $192 trillion between now and 2050, or about 6.4 trillion dollars per year. Conveniently, this amount can be provided by a 3.5% yearly wealth tax targeting the richest 10% in the global North.

Of course, we should be clear about the fact that Western governments will not do any of this voluntarily. And it is not reasonable for us to place our hope in the goodwill of states that have never cared about the interests of the South or the welfare of its people.

The alternative is for global South governments to unite and collectively leverage the specific forms of power that they have in the world system. Western economies are totally dependent on production in the South. In fact, around 50% of all materials consumed in the global North are net-appropriated from the South. This is a travesty of justice but it is also a crucial point of leverage. Global South governments can and should form cartels to force the imperialist states to take more radical action toward decarbonization and climate justice.

And, by the way, speaking of South-South solidarity, global South governments should negotiate access to renewable energy technologies by establishing swap lines with China so that these can be obtained outside of the imperialist currencies, and thus limit their exposure to unequal exchange.

Comrades. We stand at a fork in the road. We can stick with the status quo and watch helplessly as our world burns… or we can unite and set a new course for human history. The Southern struggle for liberation is the true agent of world-historical transformation. The world is waiting. This is the generation. Now is the moment. Hasta la victoria siempre.

* * *

More on the Congress

The 50th Anniversary Congress on the New International Economic Order adopted a “roadmap for a Global South insurgency to remake the world system.” (For a full list of participants, please click here.)

The assembled delegates debated strategies and tactics for winning a New International Economic Order and worked on major, structural reform proposals under five themes:

• Finance, Debt, and the International Monetary System

• Science, Technology, and Innovation

• Climate, Energy, and Natural Resources

• Commodities, Industry, and International Trade

• Governance, Multilateralism, and International Law

Proposals included a debtors club, cartels for critical minerals, coordination on commodity prices, BRICS financing for Southern state capacity, detailed programmes of regional integration including industrial strategy and collective public purchasing for medicines and components, reduction of material-technical dependency on the Global North, regaining national control over foreign exchange earnings, national and regional industrial policy, investment in food and renewable energy sovereignty, a global global, multilayered buffer stock system for essential commodities including food and critical minerals, coordinated exit from ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes), denunciation of bilateral investment treaties, cross-border payment systems where international reserves are deposited, mobilisation of Special Drawing Rights for Southern development, establishing an association of raw material exporters, activate force majeure clauses so that all patents to combat climate change are ended, reparations for historical CO2 emissions from the Global North, and many more.

These proposals will be developed into a renewed and detailed Program of Action overseen by a technical committee of the Progressive International, and will be carried out through online fora and at further in-person conferences, with Algeria, Honduras, Mexico and Colombia all mooted as host nations.

The conference concluded with a presentation by President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermúdez outlining the vision of the Cuban Presidency of the Group of 77 + China for the New International Economic Order.

See also: Proposals for Unilateral Decolonization and Economic Sovereignty, by Ndongo Samba Sylla (with Jason Hickel)

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Fighting Climate Change – Beyond Canada’s Carbon Tax

Free Transit Ottawa (FTO) organized a public meeting on March 18 on the theme “Fighting Climate Change: Beyond the Carbon Tax.”

The event was cosponsored by a range of local climate-justice movements: Ecology Ottawa, Horizon Ottawa, Justice for Workers, Fridays for Future and CAWI (City for All Women Initiative).

Speakers on the introductory panel were Emma Bider of Climate Justice Ottawa, Angella MacEwan of CUPE and the Green Economy Network, and myself representing Free Transit Ottawa.

The following text is based on my remarks. – Richard Fidler

* * *

Climate change is the most visible, most threatening expression of a larger, planetary ecological crisis, the result of a fossil-fueled economic system with its pursuit of endless growth which ensures that the exploitation of natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable) exceeds the carrying capacity of nature.

Our approach must be commensurate with the structural challenge that crisis poses to the way society is organized if we are to halt and reverse the ecological catastrophe toward which we are now hurtling – and which is fueled by our dependency on fossil fuels.

Globally, we are still fighting even to win recognition of the need to end fossil fuel dependency. The major achievement of the recent COP 28 conference – the 28th annual meeting of the UN conference parties since the Kyoto conference in the mid-1990s – was, for the first time, a consensus agreement that we must “transition away” from fossil fuels if we are to attain the international goal of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

Is this happening? The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in a recent study,[1] reports that half of the oil consumed by humans has been burned in the past 27 years; half of the gas in the past 21 years; and half of the coal in the past 37 years. As a result, half of the world’s 1.77 trillion tonnes of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have been released in the past 30 years. Fourteen per cent have been emitted since the landmark Paris Agreement of 2015.

To date, renewable energies like wind, solar or thermal, have not made much of a dent in energy consumption or per capita fossil fuel use. Renewables have “only served to increase overall energy consumption.” In 2022 fossil fuels still accounted for 82.9 per cent of total world energy consumption.

But emissions from carbon production and use are destroying the global climate. So we have to find and develop renewable and substitute sources of energy. And, equally if not more important, find ways to eliminate much inefficient and socially undesirable consumption of energy. And adapt our societies to be less reliant on the market forces that drive production and consumption under our fossil-fueled capitalism, with their attendant growing social inequality and deterioration of public services.

Where is Canada in all this?

Canada is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer. More than half of its production is exported. Canada gets 90.8 per cent of its primary energy production from fossil fuels (54 per cent from oil, 31 per cent from natural gas, six per cent from coal). The remainder comes from hydro, nuclear and renewables sources.

The federal government’s Emissions Reduction Plan, the latest iteration of its Pan-Canadian Framework on Green Growth and Climate Change, promises to reduce emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 – and to net zero by 2050.

The Plan includes a forthcoming cap on oil and gas emissions; a green buildings strategy; and the creation of clean renewable electricity grids. But it also features promotion of electric vehicles (mainly cars) and extensive funding of new (and so far undiscovered or unproven) technology such as carbon capture and storage or direct air capture, allegedly to “offset” continued extraction of oil and gas.

And then there are the new pipelines and liquified natural gas (LNG) plants, built to export Canada’s increasing fossil-fuel extraction for many years to come. [Consumption of exported gas is not included in Canada’s emissions statistics.] The government-owned TMX pipeline project has cost some $35 billion to date. The LNG plant in Prince Rupert, fed by the controversial Northern Gateway gas pipeline, has cost $40 billion to build. Four more LNG plants are in the works.

Much of the federal Plan is left to the provinces and private business to implement, with dubious results. In Ontario, Ford ended a slew of renewable energy projects and is increasing the province’s reliance on natural gas. Alberta’s Smith has sharply curtailed renewable energy projects. British Columbia’s NDP government is pursuing LNG expansion and overseeing a dramatic ramp-up in natural gas fracking. In Newfoundland and Labrador, oil and gas now account for about 25% of the province’s gross domestic product, and the province aims to double oil production.

Still central to the federal Plan is the carbon tax or its counterpart in B.C. and Quebec, cap-and-trade. “Putting a price on pollution,” says the Plan, “is widely recognized as the most efficient means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Producers and consumers alike are subject to periodic graduated carbon price payments in the hope that, through market forces, increased costs will promote more climate-friendly expenditures.

However, we need to be clear. Regulating emissions is an alternative to planning and quantifying the needed cutbacks in fossil fuel extraction and development. As many critics have noted, carbon pricing doesn’t even regulate emissions, it just puts a price on them based on an arbitrary calculation, the “social cost of carbon,” that tends to ignore the “externalities” — the cumulative emissions, feedback loops, and (in the case of carbon trading credits) the disproportionate impacts of climate change on countries in the Global South. For business, carbon pricing is just a cost of doing business. And it will always be limited to ensure that Canadian businesses are not disadvantaged by competitors’ prices and to avoid economic disruption that would motivate greater market intervention.

For consumers, however, carbon pricing tends to download moral and financial responsibility on households that burn fossil fuels for heating or transportation. The feds have tried to offset public resentment over the tax through rebates for 80% of consumers. And, more recently, public opposition has forced them to exempt Maritimers from the tax on home heating oil, and to remove the tax from farm fuels. Yet the government still insists that carbon pricing will reduce Canada’s carbon emissions by up to one-third by 2030.

Clearly, the overall objective of Canada’s official climate plan is to retain fossil fuels as Canada’s primary energy source for as long as possible, using market-based “offsets” and carbon trading to achieve “net zero.” Not surprisingly, many Canadians are resentful at moves to make them help pay for these anti-ecological and antisocial policies and programs.

What’s the alternative?

In his recent book A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, [2] Seth Klein argues convincingly that we need a radically different approach. He contrasts Canada’s listless response to today’s climate crisis with the massive mobilization the country experienced in WWII. That included adoption of an emergency mindset, mandatory measures, a reconfiguration of industrial production (e.g. jeeps and tanks, not cars) and above all no reliance on market forces; real planning, nationalizations (about 50 Crown corporations), and spending what it took to win.

A comparable mobilization is needed now, Klein urges. It would start with a national needs inventory as the basis for coordinating mass production of the equipment needed to realize our new GHG reduction targets. New factories would be built, as needed, to produce solar panels, wind turbines, electric heat pumps and electric busses at a mass scale. (The technology already exists.) A clear wind-down pathway would be adopted for all fossil fuel extraction in Canada, guided by a robust just transition plan for existing fossil fuel workers and communities that currently rely on these industries.

Along with a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure, we need to develop a massive green public infrastructure plan, involving all levels of government. Billions of dollars would be invested in renewable energy, building retrofits, high-speed rail and expansion and electrification of cross-country railways, mass public transit, along with electric vehicle charging stations and methane capture from farms and landfills.

And because even under the best-case scenario a certain amount of global warming is already locked-in, Klein reminds us, we also now need to undertake major investments in climate adaptation and resilience infrastructure, with a focus on ensuring that vulnerable communities are better protected from climate disasters and related events (forest fires, extreme heat events, flooding, etc.). We also need to significantly invest in forest management that will lessen wildfire risks to rural and Indigenous communities, while providing thousands of sustainable jobs in resource-based communities. We need a large-scale program to repair and enhance Canada’s natural climate sequestration systems — helping nature suck carbon from the atmosphere. That includes an extensive reforestation program, and of course the preservation of existing old-growth forests.

Klein then adds an important point. As advocates of a Green New Deal have emphasized, he says, “we need more than just direct climate infrastructure investments — we also need large-scale investments in social infrastructure and the caring economy.”

“That means investments from all levels of government in zero-carbon public and non-profit housing — a bold commitment to build hundreds of thousands of new units of non-market housing. And it means federal and provincial funding for universal, public, accessible, quality child care and home care for seniors and people with disabilities. These are public services that are already virtually carbon-free and would represent a major enhancement to household affordability.”[3]

Finally, we need to set in law and regulation clear dates by which certain things must happen. “Clear targets … — embedded in law and well publicized — will send a much stronger signal to the market than any form of carbon pricing. They communicate to businesses and consumers that they must reorient their plans accordingly. If effectively enforced, these targets will push manufactures, builders, installers and extraction companies to make investment plans that align with these dates.”

That said, I would note a few things Klein overlooks. His national perspective must be supplemented by an international dimension. This means solidarity with climate-justice struggles in the global South – the peoples who are primary victims of global warming – in opposition to unequal trade relations, super-exploitation of their labour, and the pillage of their natural resources by transnational capital, and for relief from illegitimate debts. It means collaboration with countries like China in developing global trade in alternative energy resources and technologies.

Indigenous people are prime targets of attempts to coerce or coopt them into “partnering” with corporations and governments in the capitalist exploitation of their lands and resources. Solidarity with their struggles for self-determination and autonomy is essential.

The transition is itself a source of supplementary emissions that must be offset if the carbon budget is not to explode. Yet we need to reduce global energy consumption, that is, reduce productive and/or transport activities. This means challenging the capitalist growth imperative.

Does this mean de-growth? Some production or services should not degrow but be suppressed, ASAP: coal facilities and mines, oil extraction, weapons production, the advertising industry, plastics, pesticides, etc. But others should grow – such as renewable energies, organic agriculture, and essential services (education, health and culture).

Overall, this points to the “system change” that our movements have counterposed to climate change. Strategy, programs oriented to satisfying social, community needs, not subordinate to profit motive. And that, if I may say so, is a huge difference from the analogy Klein makes with the World War II mobilization. Then, ruling elites united in leading the national war effort. That unity was in their class interest.

Today, we have no such cross-class unanimity. Instead, we face what some critics call a “regime of obstruction” based on a matrix of corporate and financial control of our political and economic processes, the news and other cultural media its power centers a combination of Calgary-based petroleum interests and Toronto-based finance and banking.[4] It’s a structural problem. To resolve it, we need to build alliances, coalitions of workers, farmers, indigenous communities, racialized minorities, students, youth and poor against the entrenched fossil oligarchy. And link decarbonization with opposition to capitalist austerity.

A key challenge – Restructuring transportation

If we break down Canada’s GHG emissions by sector, more than half are in fossil fuel resource extraction (25%) and transportation (28%).[5] How might the alternative strategy outlined here work in transportation, a service that along with housing and healthcare is integrally important to the day-to-day experiences of the people in our local communities?

Topping Seth Klein’s list of measures to get our transportation sector to carbon-zero is (and I quote) “expanding public transit, including a plan to make public transit not only more accessible and convenient, but also dramatically more affordable (minimally, that means free public transit for lower-income people, but could well involve making transit a ‘free’ publicly paid service, just like health care).”[6]

That is what we in Free Transit Ottawa propose: making public transit accessible to all, at no user charge, just like public schools, most health care, fire services, bike paths and sidewalks. A radically improved public transit system, which would be a major step toward fighting poverty and social exclusion, would also be the biggest single measure we could take to combat climate change.

What about trucks and cars? Rail expansion could reduce much highway trucking, and urban trucking can be electrified. As for cars, the private vehicles that have shaped the design and culture of our cities for more than a century – contributing to urban sprawl, loss of greenspace, wetlands and agricultural land, higher costs and waste of time for daily commuters, etc. – it is necessary not only to put bans on the manufacture, sale and advertising of new fossil fuel-burning cars, but to replace them through expansion of electrified urban public transportation and inter-city rail.

That was the point made by the workers at GM’s auto plant in Oshawa, which the company closed in late 2019 after more than 100 years of operations. Green Jobs Oshawa, the campaign led by Unifor Local 222’s political action committee, called on the federal government to take over the plant as a publicly owned enterprise and convert it to electric vehicle manufacturing, with a focus on the production of vehicles for government truck fleets such as those of Canada Post – following through on the postal workers’ union proposal for making the post office a hub for electrification and local community banking and home services.[7]

Far from replacing cars, however, Ottawa and some provinces are simply planning to electrify them. They have already arranged to invest some $50 billion on the construction of three giant factories – two in Ontario, one in Quebec – to manufacture batteries for EVs. Critics question the need for such giant subsidies to the foreign companies in question when they might well invest in battery production without the subsidies. We might ask, as well: what if such sums had been spent on expanding and electrifying urban public transit? And what about the environmental cost of extracting the minerals needed to produce these batteries? Can we really hope to reduce carbon emissions through massive development of mining, among the most energy-consuming and polluting industries?

Finally, we must bear in mind that the campaign for free and improved public transit will face serious opposition from property developers who own large tracts of land on the edges of cities, the oil and auto industries, other business sectors that favour low taxes and limited government, and the politicians who represent them.

To achieve free and accessible public transit, we will have to build a movement powerful enough to overcome this opposition. That movement will be centred on those who are transit dependent as well as environmental activists, but must also include a wide range of working and professional people, including those in Ottawa who currently work for the public transit utility, OC Transpo.[8] To build it, we will need to engage in educational activities as well as struggles for immediate reforms that lower the cost of public transport and/or increase its accessibility – joining existing struggles and initiating new struggles.

Ultimately, we need a different kind of government with the political will to lead, coordinate and consolidate the transition, a government based on the support of the victims of climate change, not its perpetrators.


[1] David Hughes, Getting to Net-Zero in Canada: Scale of the problem, government projections and daunting challenges (CCPA, February 2024).

[2] Seth Klein, A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency (Toronto: 2020).

[3] Ibid., pp. 183-184.

[4] Shannon Daub, Gwendolyn Blue, Lise Rajewicz, and Zoë Yunker, “Episodes in the New Climate Denialism,” in William K. Carroll, Regime of Obstruction: How Corporate Power Blocks Energy Democracy (AU Press, 2021), p. 226.

[5] Followed by industry (14%), electricity (11%), agriculture (9%), residential buildings (6%) and non-residential buildings (4%).

[6] A Good War, p. 187.

[7] Delivering Community Power,

[8] The OC Transpo union, affiliated with the Amalgamated Transit Workers, has publicly supported the work of Free Transit Ottawa. The national union is sympathetic as well. “ATU Canada advocates for fares to be affordable for all, and advocates for progress toward creating a fare-free transit.”

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Ukraine: Ceasefire… or capitulation?

Last August, I published a critique of left responses in Canada to Russia’s assault on Ukraine: Canadian Left Responses to War in Ukraine – a Provisional Balance Sheet. I noted that progressive opinion in support of Ukraine’s defense of its territorial sovereignty and national self-determination tended to be stronger in Quebec than in English Canada. However, a notable exception was a broad pacifist collective, Échec à la Guerre. It “claims to oppose all imperialisms,” I wrote, “but has not rallied to defend Ukraine.”

Since then, Échec à la Guerre has, if anything, stepped up its campaign against solidarity with Ukraine. Articles by its leading spokespersons have been published in daily newspapers and often replicated on social media, including on-line solidarity websites. A recent “open letter” it published, to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion, was also published on websites that have sought to rally support for Ukraine, among them the international solidarity site Alternatives, and the site Presse-toi à gauche (PTàG), which is sympathetic to Québec solidaire.

However, PTàG also published in the same issue a critical and much-needed response to the article, by Camille Popinot, addressed to many key issues that have been raised among the Western left as a result of the war. Notable is its appeal to the left-wing affiliates of Échec à la Guerre to disavow its position. Here is my translation of the article. – Richard Fidler.

Ceasefire or capitulation -

Views of the Ukrainian and Russian lefts


The Quebec “center-left and pro-independence” newspaper Le Devoir has just published an open letter signed by five pacifists, who call for a “ceasefire and immediate negotiations” in Ukraine.

The letter itself would not be worth our attention had the authors not said they were signing “on behalf of” the Échec à la Guerre Collective.

In fact, the Collective brings together left-wing political parties (Québec Solidaire, Communist Party), numerous unions (CSN, FTQ, nurses, teachers, etc.), community groups and civil-rights defenders (FRAPRU, League of Rights and Freedoms, AQOCI, MEPACQ etc.) and religious organizations.[1] In short, it includes a good number of activists in Quebec who define themselves as left-wing, trade unionists, socialists, feminists, anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, post-colonialists, alter-globalists and even internationalists – and who see themselves associated, at least indirectly, with the content of this pacifist appeal.

Ceasefire or capitulation?

The letter in question is a poor caricature of the propaganda conveyed by Vladimir Putin: the war was provoked by the United States, the West, NATO, which “are conducting a real proxy war in Ukraine.” Russia, for its part, did everything it could to negotiate and avoid conflict but it had to defend its “great power” interests. And finally -- as “the war in Ukraine did not go according to the West’s plans,” as the economic sanctions have failed, as the “situation is developing to Russia’s advantage,” -- we must avoid its spiraling into a nuclear war. It is in the interest of the Ukrainians and of humanity to impose a “ceasefire” as quickly as possible. Of course the text does not tell us how, or what the implications might be, but it must be done and be “mutually acceptable” to the security interests of Ukraine and Russia. And there you have it, you just had to think about it and write it down.

Beyond a narrative worthy of George Orwell’s Newspeak -- where those who were thought to be the attacked become the aggressors, the victims the culprits, the victories the defeats, the imperialists the colonized etc. -- the primary goal of the letter is to end Canadian military support for Ukraine. It is indeed certain that if Ukraine no longer receives any support, then it will have no choice but to negotiate a ceasefire. And the sooner we stop supporting it, the sooner the ceasefire desired by the authors of the letter will be imposed. But will it be “mutually acceptable?”

And in fact, the only problem with the execution of this master plan is that the Ukrainians – and fortunately many other people – now think it is no longer a question of a ceasefire but of an all-out capitulation. And, regardless, notwithstanding the incantations of Quebec pacifists, the Ukrainians refuse to capitulate.

Should we listen to the Ukrainians or ignore them and defend the pacifism of Échec à la Guerre?

But the authors of the letter couldn’t care less about what Ukrainians think and want. It is indeed astonishing to see with what ease, shamefully, five pacifists (who certainly claim to be post-colonialists), well sheltered from the bombs, can claim to express themselves for and in the interest of the Ukrainians, without even taking the trouble to cite just one.

As if the Ukrainians could not speak, as if their demands were unknown, as if their opinion was in any case irrelevant in view of the global concerns of the five Quebec pacifists. Ukrainians are de facto infantilized, treated like children who have reacted impulsively, who must be calmed down and to whom it is necessary to explain, and if needed impose, what is good for them.

It’s true that they don’t listen much, not even to the learned advice of our five pacifists or Western and Russian capitalists. Instead of fleeing by taxi and calmly allowing themselves to be colonized, as Vladimir Putin but also all NATO members expected, they chose to resist and continue to resist despite everything, seeming to forget that confronting them is a nuclear power.

In short, if for the authors of the letter the opinion of the Ukrainians does not count, the Ukrainians on the other hand would do well to listen to them. This is an already well-documented concept and practice of “international solidarity.”

But why does the Ukrainian left refuse to capitulate?

But let’s imagine that, unlike the five pacifist missionaries, the associative members of the Collective consider it important to listen and take into account what the Ukrainians are demanding, like any internationalist worthy of the name. They can then easily obtain information in French thanks to the valuable work carried out by a group of several left-wing publishing houses (including Quebec ones) and the work of the European Network for Solidarity with Ukraine (ENSU/RESU).

Left-wing political parties, unions and Quebec community groups can then see in these thousands of documents that in many aspects, Ukrainian society is not very different from Quebec society; and that, like Quebec, it is a deeply divided society. There are fascists, racists, war profiteering capitalists, villainous and concealed multimillionaires, corrupt politicians, homophobic religious people, antisemites, Islamophobes, etc. And, as in Quebec, in the absence of a truly internationalist left, it is this trend that is on the rise.

But there are also many left-wing activists, anti-capitalists, feminists and anarchists who, in all conscience, have chosen to defend the right to independence, not only with weapons in their hands but also under the command of a bourgeois and patriarchal government, the only militarily viable solution according to them to avoid being colonized and disappearing. There are trade unionists who campaign against the scandalous reform of the Labor Code while providing continued support to the soldiers in the trenches. There are internationalist activists who, despite the state of emergency, take the time to send messages of solidarity to the Palestinians, to the French or British strikers. There are anti-capitalists who campaign against the neo-liberal reforms of Zelensky, the IMF and the World Bank, for the nationalization of the arms industry, the expropriation of the oligarchs. And there are activists who, at the risk of their lives, document the reality in the occupied territories, the theft of children, the pillaging of Mariupol and its region, rapid Russification, etc.

Still, in these precious documents, the members of the Collective will also be able to see that Ukrainians are also fighting for peace, a ceasefire and disarmament. The difference, however, is that they do not accept the conditions proposed by our five pacifists or Vladimir Putin. They keep repeating it: if Russia withdraws, there will be no more war. On the other hand, if Ukraine gives in, there is no more Ukraine.

Who will disarm and who will be disarmed?

In fact, when we confronted by the army of a leader who repeats to anyone who will listen that you do not exist and who has already shown the Chechens, the Syrians or the Georgians very clearly the conditions of lasting peace and disarmament according to him, we surely recall more clearly certain lessons from history: “the whole question is to know who will disarm and who will be disarmed.”

Consequently, today, what the members of the Collective will not find in these multiple documents from trade unionists, socialists, feminists, anti-capitalists, Ukrainian internationalists are calls to put an end to military support for the Ukrainian army, to oppose Ukraine’s entry into NATO or the European Union. These activists of the Ukrainian left say over and over: it is not with a light heart that they make these political choices; it’s a question of priorities, of survival.

What if the Russian left also wanted Putin’s military defeat?

Our five pacifists could also, still with a perspective of international solidarity, turn to Russian internationalist activists. It is true that it is much more difficult to get in touch with them but, thanks to the work of ENSU activists, we have in particular the declarations of the Russian Socialist Movement. And here is an extract from a recent press release, in the hope that the members of the Échec à la Guerre Collective will be encouraged to read it in its entirety:

Putin’s regime can no longer exit the state of war, as the only way to maintain its system is to escalate the international situation and intensify political repression within Russia.

That is why any negotiations with Putin now would bring, at best, a brief respite, not a genuine peace.

A victory for Russia would be evidence of the West’s weakness and openness to redrawing its spheres of influence, above all in the post-Soviet space. Moldova and the Baltic States could be the next victims of aggression. A defeat for the regime, on the other hand, would be tantamount to its collapse.

Only the Ukrainian people have the right to decide when and under what conditions to make peace. As long as Ukrainians show a will to resist and the Putin regime remains unchanged in its expansionist goals, any coercion of Ukraine into negotiations is a step towards an imperialist “deal” at the expense of Ukrainian independence.

That imperialist “peace deal” would mean a return to the practice of the “great powers” partitioning the rest of the world, that is, to the conditions that gave birth to the First and Second World Wars.

The main obstacle to peace is certainly not Zelensky’s “unwillingness to compromise,” nor is it Biden’s or Scholz’s “hawkishness”: it is Putin’s unwillingness to even discuss deoccupying the Ukrainian territories seized after February 24, 2022. And it is the aggressor, not the victim, who must be forced to negotiate.

It is obvious that this position, like that of the Ukrainian left summarized here, reflects only part and probably only a very small part of the opinions of the Russian or Ukrainian left. But these are the positions that we relay, that we have chosen to support, by citing our sources. Let the five Quebec pacifists do the same and tell us in whose name they speak and call for an “immediate ceasefire” in Ukraine.

While waiting for their sources, we share the opinion of the Russian Socialist Movement that, in the current context, what ultimately counts is the choice of the Ukrainian people and that “it is the aggressor, not the victim, who must be forced to negotiate.” The complete opposite of what the five Quebec pacifists have chosen to defend “on behalf of” a significant collective of Quebec workers.

We then hope that the associative members of the Échec à la Guerre Collective will make it known that they firmly condemn this despicable position which goes against the right to self-determination and all the basic principles of international working-class and feminist solidarity, of internationalism.

[1] The members of the collective are listed here: – RF

Monday, February 26, 2024

Ukraine: Seven conclusions on the second anniversary of the war

Vitaliy Dudin, a labour rights lawyer, is a leader of Ukraine’s Social Movement (Sotsialnyi Rukh). For more on this movement, see “A Ukrainian Left under construction on several fronts.” Here is his assessment of the current situation in the war of resistance against Russia’s invasion, and the issues now looming within Ukraine. The article, based here on a French translation by Patrick Le Tréhondat, was published originally at – RF

* * *

The viewpoint of a Ukrainian socialist

By Vitaliy Dudin

1. Ukraine has proved that, without NATO membership, it is possible to resist Russia, the most militaristic imperial state of our time. It is a living testament to the independence and dedication of the Ukrainian people, especially the Ukrainian armed forces. Putin has walked into a trap of his own making, and there is no way out without an even greater degradation of [Russian] society in the direction of fascism. We have survived thanks to unprecedented solidarity, and the prospect of victory depends on its continuation on a global scale. But to move on to a new stage, the national character of the war must be complemented by the taking of socialist measures by the Ukrainian state.

2. The link between the state’s economic potential and its arsenal of means is obvious. It’s no coincidence that David Arakhamia[1] has stated that, in the event of a lack of American aid, more Ukrainians will have to be mobilized. Focusing on measures such as debt cancellation, progressive taxation and the nationalization of strategic industries would probably enable defenders to be better equipped and therefore fewer people to be enlisted. With limited resources and unlimited freedom of action, the authorities are inclined to mobilize people rather than restructure the economy.

3. The Ukrainian people are convinced that capitalism is incompatible with humanity. Many care workers, railway workers, educators, security guards, drivers and civil servants have experienced multiple vulnerabilities: from them I have learned how the threat to their lives has been compounded by fear of the future due to the arbitrariness of employers. It’s a disgrace to see how the authorities are concerned not with these people, but with the comfort of the business elite in all its aspects. The sense of disenfranchisement and insecurity among the working masses exacerbates the shortage of workers.

4. Enough time has passed for even free-market advocates to be convinced of the inability of liberal economics to meet the challenges of war. Our people are ready to make an even greater contribution to victory by increasing defense production and restoring infrastructure, but for this to happen, the state must provide everyone with decent, productive employment. Today, the shortage of manpower is compounded by unemployment. The unresolved social and labor crisis will not allow Ukraine to benefit from its natural advantages, and will make it dependent on Western aid.

5. The legitimacy of any coercive measures (such as mobilization or restrictions on foreign travel) will remain questionable as long as there is a gap between the social strata and corruption. The authorities will never realize that a society stratified into classes is less stable than one in full social cohesion. During a war of liberation, there can be no oligarchs in a country that is out to win.

6. Restrictions on the calling of elections and on political competition should be offset by the expansion of forms of democracy at all levels, in particular by increasing the importance of trade unions and workers’ collectives in problem-solving at the industrial and legislative levels. After the expiry of the mandate for which she was elected, Galina Tretyakova[2] should not continue to determine social policy and impose a Labor Code focused on protecting the rich from the working population. Without taking into account the opinion of trade unions within the framework of social dialogue, the authorities should not take such decisions, unless, of course, they want to bring social contradictions to a critical point.

7. Get used to thinking at least once every 24 hours about what you’ve done for the common good. Are you ready to sacrifice some of your free time, because many have already given the most precious thing in the fight for a free Ukraine: their lives. Remember them.

February 24, 2024

[1] MP, chair of the presidential group in the parliament. – Tr.

[2] Chair of the parliamentary committee on social policy. – Tr.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Ukraine’s popular resistance needs our solidarity now more than ever

Ukraine is now entering the third year of its resistance, both armed and unarmed, to Russia’s full-scale invasion launched in 2022. (Russia’s military aggression actually began 10 years ago when it seized Crimea in retaliation for Ukraine’s ousting of a pro-Russian president.)

The statement below has been issued by the European Network for Solidarity with Ukraine. I follow it with a recent article by a Ukrainian comrade outlining an “agenda for the left” outside Ukraine in relation to the war. – Richard Fidler

Statement on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

February 24, 2024, marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This totally unjustified invasion has already cost the lives of at least 20,000 Ukrainian civilians and over 100,000 soldiers. Millions of people have been forced to flee abroad, millions more are displaced inside Ukraine.

The aggressor continues to destroy entire cities and civilian infrastructure (electricity and heating networks, schools, hospitals, railways, ports, etc). The Russian army has carried out mass killings of Ukrainians (both soldiers and civilians). Sexual violence is part of the aggressor's strategy. Many citizens (including children) have been forcibly deported to Russia and Belarus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, the main political forces of the Russian Federation, religious leaders and the media promote an imperialist agenda that denies Ukrainians their right to independence, statehood, and the freedom to choose political alliances.

The Ukrainian people refuse to be passive victims of this aggression and are massively resisting the invasion, with and without arms. Grassroots self-organisation (including by trade unions, feminist organisations, and civil rights associations) is playing a vital role in the country's defence and the struggle for a free, social and democratic Ukraine.

However, in view of the complicated world political situation (exemplified by the Republican Party's blocking of financial aid to Ukraine in the US Congress), mobilisation in support of the military and civil resistance of the Ukrainians is more necessary than ever.

The Russian government has increased the resources of its own war industry by 70%, to which must be added private mercenary forces and various forms of subsidy designed to make the war acceptable to the poorest populations of the federation, whose men are mobilised as cannon fodder. Putin is also exploiting the hypocrisy of the “democratic” rhetoric of Western countries to divert public opinion from criticising his own crimes in Ukraine.

At the same time, solidarity with the Ukrainian people is being undermined by a dominant discourse which presents spending “to help Ukraine” as a justification for cuts in social budgets and permanent increases in arms spending.

The legitimate aspiration for peace accompanied by demands for urgent responses to social and ecological emergencies cannot take place at the expense of Ukrainian lives and rights: it should instead be transformed into a demand for transparency about real government spending, rejecting permanently rising militarisation and socially regressive economic policies, nationally and globally.

Ukraine cannot win without NATO-supplied weapons to repel the invader. Yet what its eventual victory over Putin will most represent is not a win for the Western side in the great-power struggle for global dominance, but a triumph for the Ukrainian people’s unyielding resistance and right to decide its future.

As such, it will be a victory for small nations and democratic principle everywhere. We call for making the week around 24 February (19-25) a time of international action against the Russian invasion and in solidarity with Ukraine.

Peace for Ukraine. Stop Russia’s war! Immediate stop to Russian bombing and withdrawal of all Russian troops from all of Ukraine!

The widest possible support and solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their legitimate resistance to the Russian invasion!

To add the name of your organisation to this appeal, please write to us at

* * *

The war in Ukraine: Agenda for the left

By Oleksandr Kyselov

First published at Commons.

The situation on the military front is grim. Despite certain tactical achievements, high hopes for the counter-offensive were not fulfilled. Instead, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief, has openly acknowledged a stalemate. The national polls indicate emerging exhaustion. The global community is losing interest, aid packages are stalled, truck haulage is blocked. Winter is here, and so are Russian missile strikes at the energy infrastructure.

It is not better politically, either. Ukraine’s left, which looks more like a constellation of NGOs, activist groups, and local union leaders than a coherent movement, is effectively sidelined and marginalized. The mainstream opinion corridor resembles a weird mix of linguistic chauvinism and unrestrained neoliberalism. Rally ‘round the flag’ effect decreases but still holds: the president, the army, and volunteers enjoy the highest level of trust. The predominant majority of the Ukrainian population don't want elections citing their costs, limitations of the martial law, the lack of safety, and the inability of a significant share of Ukrainians to vote.

Who or what to fight for then?

It would be naive, of course, to demand unreserved solidarity from the international left. There is so much injustice in the world, and standing with Ukraine does not always look that appealing. After all, one doesn’t have to dig deep to find there public officials instrumentalizing fear and steering hatred or corporate lobbyists dreaming of destroying everything social. Likewise, it is easy to point to the aspiring neo-feudals eager to keep the borders shut so their serfs won't escape or the middle-class xenophobes calling for disenfranchisement of residents of the occupied territories. In some truly Orwellian fashion, president Zelenskyi himself unequivocally backed the occupying power of Israel, as if forgetting how his own country is suffering from pseudo-historic claims by its neighbor.

Needless to say, no solidarity is expected with such figures. But keep in mind that many contrasting fates are entangled today. The left ought to act for the working people! The farmers from Kherson who till the mine-laden soil. The train drivers from Kyiv who deliver vital supplies on run-down trains. The underpaid nurses from Lviv who attend to the sick and the wounded. The Russian-speaking miners from Kryvyi Rih who fight to protect their hometown. The construction workers from Mykolaiv who clear dangerous rubble to build anew, but struggle to feed their families. Support them, the invisible majority, whose voice is rarely heard but who have nowhere else to go. The establishment, on the contrary, should be watched as closely as possible.

How to support?

Numerous initiatives have already taken root, each being an example of what is possible. International advocacy efforts of European Network in Solidarity with Ukraine, resolute backing by the Nordic Green Left, united voice of the Danish trade unions, speaking tours of the Ukrainian labor leaders, capacity building for Sotsialnyi Rukh, syndicalist organizing of Ukrainian workers in Stockholm. The scope of potential action is vast, but some points come up consistently in the discussions.

Raise your voice on how your tax money is spent! Ukraine's dependence on external support is hardly a secret. Nobody wants their taxes to end up in somebody's bank account in Switzerland rather than serve those in need. Then, it is only logical to pressure for including social clauses in aid conditions and public procurement or point to unfair practices where they exist. Aid for reconstruction should go hand in hand with green jobs, living wage, union oversight, contractor's liability, protected employment, and a healthy and safe working environment!

Call for debt relief! Ukraine's external debt exceeds $93 billion. Over the years, borrowing was an easy way out for governments to avoid challenging the status quo and meddling with oligarchs. Most recent loans already have stricter requirements aiming at counteracting state capture, and things are changing. But the amount of debt hanging over is already used as a pretext for justifying austerity. Moreover, it reproduces dependency, where rebuilding is funded by new loans. What is earned is spent on repayment instead. One could question how fair it is for the people of the devastated land to pay for the ruling class's faulty policy decisions at all. Yet even more important is to remember the main lesson from the success of the Marshall Plan: war-torn countries need grants, not loans.

Do not ignore the problems with democracy and human rights! When the invasion started, citizens of all social backgrounds lined up in front of the recruitment centers. Almost two years later, it is no longer the case. The primary tool for military recruitment is mobilization with all its troubles. But for people to risk their lives, they must be sure that it is fair and that they or their families will be cared for if something unfortunate happens. They must be offered the stakes in defining the country's future. But why would the government care if there is an easy way out? Under the pretext of the defense duty, en-mass round-ups on the streets or public transport will continue to proliferate unless you pay attention.

The same goes about solving a demographic challenge after the war or reintegrating Donbass and Crimea. Not closed borders, not ramped-up propaganda, but decent wages, affordable housing, and social security could convince people to stay or return. Not arrogant moralising, trustworthiness tests, or re-education camps but mutual respect, recognition of human dignity, and shared responsibility for rebuilding could enable reconciliation.

Support the unions! They are the only established mass organizations that exist specifically for wage earners. Even if they are not the most militant but overly bureaucratic and helpless or even only semi-alive, there is nothing else. Institutional recognition of unions' special role in postwar development could revitalize them and incentivize a union drive. It would also establish a credible agent to battle corruption and social dumping. Obviously, some trade unions will be immediately taken over by opportunists. But this is also the reason to account for internal democracy and autonomy of their local chapters or the space for independent union activity.

Agree to disagree! Some things Ukrainians believe in may seem wrong or irrational to you. You could be correct, but the very same concepts might have different meanings. In modern history, Ukraine only had periods of peace. Its right to exist is openly questioned. Ukrainians have long been disappointed in their rulers and often lack leverage over them other than rising up once in a while. Then, there is no wonder a greater trust in international involvement exists. Choose your battles and focus on what we have in common!

Build connections: person to person, city to city, association to association! The people's movements worldwide have accumulated enormous political experience you can share. Traditional left narratives are discredited in Ukrainian society because of their misuse. So, the people you connect with may not be politically educated, but this is where praxis matters more—extending your hand to fight together with a small-town mayor who cares about his citizens, a local union leader who is frustrated by indifference and powerlessness, or a recent immigrant who was cheated out of wage. Engaging those already here will be particularly relevant for years and can make a difference. Whether they stay or return, they will be equipped with this new experience.

There may be nothing revolutionary in such simple points. The calculation, however, is that many small steps can lead to incremental change by creating necessary conditions and carving out space for the progressive agenda. But to facilitate this, the left needs credibility and trustworthiness, which would be virtually impossible for those who undermine weapons supply.

No doubt, the left should do more than just send arms, but it is a bare minimum not to oppose. The right to defend yourself is meaningless without the means to fight. Refusing weapons provision is threatening Ukraine’s survival as a country. Remember that the availability of arms is not the same as their use. Even if the war ends at the negotiating table, having weapons won't leave Ukraine at Russia’s mercy, neither will Ukraine be helpless if Putin decides to violate the truce.

Fighting until victory?


For the situation as it is, there are no prerequisites for a quick resolution. The Russian army does not fully control any of the regions it occupied, except for Crimea. Yet all of them are now mentioned in the Russian Constitution as an inalienable part of Russia. Ukraine is equally bound by its Constitution. Stepping back and bending down risks provoking serious internal troubles only the right-wing would benefit from. Then, if no force can prevail, a risk exists of sliding into a prolonged, low-intensity conflict. It basically means even more destruction and less hope for the eventual revival. The best discussion to have in this case would be about securing civilian lives, integrating refugees, and lowering consequences for the world by, for example, setting UN demilitarised zones at the nuclear power plants.

Russia’s defeat

The best guarantee of future peace is democratic Russia. While Russian imperialism is undoubtedly weaker than its rivals, challenging the US hegemony neither makes it more progressive per se nor a lesser evil for those who live next door. Even before Russia's turn to expansionism, life in Ukraine was marked by their constant interference in the political and economic life, their fight for cultural domination, and their projection of military power, including through having military bases in Crimea.

The hope has always been that forcing Russia to withdraw would catalyze a change within. This is why Ukraine keeps fighting. But it has costs. Foremost, the undeclared but horrific numbers of the dead and injured. The question is how much longer  Ukrainian society can afford such sacrifice and what the consequences will be. In this struggle, support is a matter of raising the costs for Russia, so it folds earlier, and lowering them for Ukraine, so it survives. That’s why both the Ukrainian and Russian left have been calling for stricter sanctions, a full stop to oil and gas imports, and timely provision of modern weaponry.


The sides might decide to probe a possible armistice. But we have to bear in mind that Ukraine is a smaller and weaker state, devastated by this war and experiencing serious demographic issues. The greatest fear about a ceasefire is to end up forgotten and alone. Then, nothing would stop Russia from launching another attack whenever they are better prepared. To have the slightest prospect to withstand, Ukraine would have to turn into a military camp and yet still live in a state of permanent insecurity. Precisely this is the most significant factor of the overwhelming support for NATO membership, as a deterrence, as a guarantee of peace. The only possible alternative would be a binding deal of similar effect. More than ever, your credible voice and support would be necessary to navigate this.

Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst

In the end, solidarity with Ukraine doesn't have to be a sign of virtue. It is a rational response. If the legitimacy of the "spheres of influence" is recognized, what choice would smaller states have other than joining one of the blocks? If nuclear powers can dictate their will, who would ever choose disarmament then? If the dependency on fossil fuels allows emboldened autocrats to blackmail the world, what is left of democracy? If Ukraine falls, what would prevent criminal employers and mafia networks in your country from taking advantage of millions of traumatized and dispossessed people?

Ultimately, if the worst thing happens, it will be yet another nail in the coffin of global peace, contributing to the growing instability. In the new world of competing smaller imperialisms, marking the decay of the US empire, we will have to prepare for the darker times and lay the conditions for the eventual revival. The least we can do then is maintain links and not see each other as enemies, even if we end up in the competing camps. Let’s follow Joe Hill's advice and not waste any time mourning. Let’s organize!

December 21, 2023