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

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Israel instrumentalizes ‘anti-Semitism’

Thomas Suárez is a London-based historical researcher as well as a professional Juilliard-trained violinist and composer. A former West Bank resident, he devoted several years to researching poorly-tapped and newly-declassified historical archives to compile his latest book: Palestine Hijacked: How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State from River to Sea. His previous books include three landmark works on the history of cartography, and Writings on the Wall: Palestinian Oral Histories. His personal web page can be consulted here.

This is an edited version of his presentation to a seminar sponsored by Weekly Worker on January 25.


Clear the smoke and mirrors

Zionism relies on anti-Semitism and is itself a form of anti-Semitism. Thomas Suárez discusses the ability of the Israeli state to excuse its crimes and silence critics

Why are we discussing seemingly academic topics like anti-Semitism and Zionism while the Palestinians are being massacred? Seventy-five years of exposing Israel’s crimes has failed to stop it, and so its uncanny impunity must be dissected to see how it works. Key to that impunity is Israel’s weaponisation of anti-Semitism, and so defeating that weaponisation is essential if we are to defeat its weapons of steel and explosives.

I would like to preface this by explaining that I do not like the term, ‘anti-Semitism’, and think it should be dropped in favour of ‘anti-Jewish bigotry’. The use of a dedicated term for bigotry against Jews - as opposed to bigotry against anybody else - feeds into the notion of Jewish exceptionalism. It is also illogical and inaccurate in its use of the term ‘Semitic’; and above all, for reasons I will explain, the term ‘anti-Semitism’ aids Israeli impunity; it is an asset in its wielding of the smear of anti-Jewish bigotry to silence critics.

But I will continue to use the word ‘anti-Semitism’ here to avoid distracting from the larger issue at hand. That larger issue is, of course, the ongoing genocide, which requires us to address not the victims, but the perpetrator and its principal weapon: the Israeli state/Zionism and its weaponisation of anti-Semitism.

First, I think we should look at the various roles that anti-Semitism plays in the Israeli state and in its ongoing genocide.

1. Anti-Semitism is, of course, the alleged rationale for Zionism and the Israeli state.

2. For devotees of the Zionist cult, anti-Semitism is both the threat and the fetish that Zionism wields to keep them obedient.

3. The transference of historic western anti-Jewish bigotry onto Palestinian identity is core to the dehumanisation of the Palestinians that Israel requires to justify its slow and not so slow genocide against them.

4. Anti-Semitism is Zionism’s essential fuel that it must ensure never runs out, and thus:

5. The cry of anti-Semitism, real or fake, is the key money-raising tool for the Zionists, and

6. The false smear of anti-Semitism is, of course, the principal weapon wielded to squash opposition to its crimes.

7. Importantly, anti-Jewish bigots were courted by the Zionist movement, with anti-Semitism used as a positive marketing strategy. If you do not want Jews showing up on your shores, support Zionism! Because we have a huge ghetto for them far away from you.

8. And so the last point: actual anti-Semitism, white nationalism and neo-fascism, are soulmates of Zionism, as is the anti-Semitism of the rabidly pro-Israel Christian Zionist movement.

In short, anti-Semitism is integral to the Israeli state - a multi-purpose, inseparable tool. Israel is woven out of anti-Semitism.

Under the hood

Now, for a quick look at the beginning of it all, I would like to quote the correspondent for the London Standard, reporting on the first Zionist Congress in 1897:

The idea of founding a modern Jewish state which goes by the name of Zionism, finds little favour in Germany, except among the anti-Semites … the Frankfurter Zeitung sums up an article on the subject as follows: In short, the degeneration which calls itself anti-Semitism has begotten the degeneration which adorns itself with the name of Zionism.

‘Anti-Semitic’ should have been the epitaph that buried Zionism along with Theodore Herzl. But Herzl and those who followed fought back through the only tactic that could counter Zionism’s obvious anti-Semitic nature. They claimed worldwide Jewish allegiance and crowned Zionism as the standard by which good Jews and bad Jews are distinguished.

To quote Herzl, “No true Jew can be an anti-Zionist. Only Mauschel [an offensive word for a religious Jew] is one. Merely to look at him - let alone approach or, heaven forbid, touch him - was enough to make us feel sick.” So here we have the beginning of the hijacking of Jewish identity by this racial-nationalist movement, resulting in the nation-state today that calls itself ‘the Jewish state’.

Now, we accept this trilogy of words - the Jewish state - with little thought. But, even on the obvious level, the term ‘the Jewish state’ already creates a magic shield around Israel. Compare the psychological difference between ‘Why are you always criticising [whatever state]?’ and ‘Why are you always criticising the Jewish state?’

The term, ‘the Jewish state’, serves as a weapon that shoots its bullets without leaving any forensic evidence. It empowers the smear of anti-Semitism in the most insidious way, because it strikes without the overt accusation, thus leaving the victim not even the option of responding to the smear, unless he or she overtly raises the issue of anti-Semitism - which only has the appearance of vindicating the smear.

So, in order to disable this magic shield, we need to look inside to see what powers it. Under the hood, we see that ‘the Jewish state’ is a stealth term that creates a messianic gateway to the public mind, sparking its message of exceptionalism past any critical thought. There is an entire world of narrative hidden within these three words, the most powerful of which is the first one, ‘the’. Israel does not claim to be merely ‘a’ Jewish state, in the sense of countries that have a national religion. Indeed to quote David Ben-Gurion, Israel has nothing to do with Judaism, but rather with ‘being a Jew’. And nor with being just an Israeli Jew, but the ethnicity itself. According to Israel’s construct, it is the state of all Jews, as Jews - free of national borders and indeed free of individual Jewish consent on the matter.

This is anti-Semitism, and it is unique in the world. There is no analogy to it with any other nation-state, as much as Israel’s apologists try to pass Israel off as analogous to any other state with a national religion. Simple experiment to prove that. There are multiple Christian states; there are multiple Muslim states, Hindu states, Buddhist states. Now, imagine that some state somewhere in the world were to establish itself and declare that it is a Jewish state, just like Israel. Israel would go ballistic. It would say, ‘No, you can’t be the Jewish state: we are the Jewish state.’

For states with an official religion, that officialness extends to their borders and stops. Such states neither claim exclusivity on the religion or its various cultures, nor to have any claim on co-religionist citizens of other countries. Israel is the opposite. Israel is the ‘only Jewish state’ (as its apologists constantly remind us) not in the sense that there happen to be no other, but because by Israel’s construct there can be no other. Why? Because its claim over Jews is global and involves ethnicity itself, not citizenship. This nation-state adaptation of tribalism, in which the state is part of the DNA of an ethnic identity, bears no relation to states with a national religion. And it is the internal workings of its weapon of silencing critics through the smear of anti-Semitism.

Now, where else do we come across this same mentality? It is the method of common bigots. Racists blame individuals by virtue of claimed oneness with some ethnicity or nationality or ‘type’. And so, during the spread of Covid19, ‘Chinese-looking’ people were attacked because the virus came from China. ‘They’, ‘the Chinese’, caused Covid. This is classic ignorant bigotry, and we all condemn it.

Israel’s magic shield works by doing precisely this to Jews - but turning it around in order to hold Jewish identity ransom to insulate its crimes. And, instead of condemning this anti-Semitism, we run in fear from it - which is doubly tragic, because we are also running in fear from Zionism’s fatal flaw.

We would say, Israel did xyz, while a bigot would say the Jews did xyz. But that bigot is now the Israeli state and its cheerleaders, who have made state and ethnicity synonymous in order to repackage criticism of the state as anti-Semitic.

Other states deflect criticism of their crimes by ‘hiding behind the flag’, accusing dissenting citizens of being unpatriotic to the state. Israel instead hides behind the ethnicity, free of borders, accusing dissenting voices anywhere of being traitorous to Jews as Jews.


Now, we are all familiar with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance pseudo-definition of anti-Semitism, which in reality is not a definition of anything, but rather a tool to silence Israel’s critics and thus empower Israel’s crimes. The IHRA does, however, contain one truth: it states that it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli state. Well, of course! - but that, ironically, is precisely what the IHRA is engineered to do. That is its purpose, and that is the inner workings of the smear.

You do not even need to unscrew the cover of the IHRA to look inside to see how it works. It is a very simple and obvious mechanism: what Israel does ‘the Jews’ do, so to accuse the state of crimes is to accuse Jews as Jews of those crimes - which, of course, is blatant anti-Jewish bigotry, and we must start saying so.

This same tactic Israel wields to silence us. It is its Achilles heel, but we have collectively been so beaten down that we have not exploited it. Israeli theft of Jewish identity makes Jews, as Jews, simply because they are Jews, the doers of its crimes. Traditional anti-Semitism, for all its horrors, is powerless to harm the integrity of Jews or Judaism, powerless to make its libels true. However, the Israeli state and Zionism - if we accept them at their word - succeed. If we accept their claims on Jewish identity, then we are common racists, blaming Jews as Jews.

The very name ‘Israel’ is of course also part of the weaponisation of the smear of anti-Semitism. For anyone from the larger western tradition (and I include secular people) the name ‘Israel’ exists apart from all other place names. Its very sound transcends the realm of the profane and touches a nerve deep within our collective cultural subconscious.

It is a place rooted in Genesis itself, and Israel - the modern nation-state - very openly exploits this to position itself as that place, the land’s ancient artefacts as the nation-state’s artefacts, and its settlers as that Biblical land’s people. As laughable as that may (and should!) sound, its power is very real, and is the reason the name was chosen.

Zionists’ use of Hebrew as the vernacular operates in tandem with the weaponisation of anti-Semitism. Hebrew was necessary for the theatre of the messianic ‘return’ to biblical lands. It, too, is an artefact serving to place the Israeli state in a protected part of our collective psyche. To criticise someone speaking Hebrew is, in this militarisation, to criticise Jews.

In sum, Zionism has hijacked Jewish individual identity and turned it into a monolithic, racial, supremacist cult. Why is this not blatantly obvious to the general public?

One key aspect, in my view is this: What, as seen by the public, are the two ‘sides’ to what they are told is a ‘conflict’? Well, they would say that ‘It’s obviously Israel versus the Palestinians (or the Arabs)’. To me, this juxtaposition is very misleading, and it hides Israel’s anti-Semitism.

Question: what is it about the Palestinians that makes Israel target them? Why does Israel place them under apartheid, ethnically cleanse them and commit genocide against them? Why? It is not because they are Palestinians per se. It is not because they are Arabs. It is solely because they are not Jewish. If they were Jewish, whether Palestinian or Arab or anything else, they would instead be welcomed by Israel and given a generous subsidy to take over a house whose owner was expelled because s/he is not Jewish.

Jews were always part of the fabric of Arab Palestinian civilisation - until the arrival of the Zionists. The Zionists extracted all Jews from Palestinian civilisation, robbing them of their Arab identity. More Zionist anti-Semitism. That the rest were by definition not Jewish - and nothing else - is why Israel has condemned them to apartheid, bantustans and camps, why the Zionist militias depopulated several hundred villages in 1948, and why it continues to depopulate them in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and, especially, in Gaza. The core goal of Zionism is a racially pure Jewish state from river to sea. Anyone there who is not Jewish is to be gotten rid of.

So, Palestinians are the targets because Palestinians are the native people river-to-sea minus the Palestinian Jews, who were all removed by the Zionists.

Describing the situation as ‘between Israel and the Palestinians’ falsely frames this racial nationalism as a real estate dispute - a conflict - and indeed provides Israel the rhetorical gymnastics through which it denies it is an apartheid regime. Accurately describing the situation as Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinian non-Jews exposes Israel’s crimes against Jews - its hijacking of Jewish identity as a human shield to insulate its crimes in the name of Jews.

Thus the Israeli state is genocidal in its very nature, as its goal is and always has been to effectively erase the original ethnic identity by expulsion and the hijacking of their cultural iconography as its own. The ongoing genocide in Gaza, and in slower motion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - and, of course, within Israel itself - is all part of Zionism’s grotesquely anti-Semitic crime of hijacking Judaism into a racial supremacist cult. Israel is in effect conducting genocide and blaming it on the Jews.

Israel’s squandering of Jewish identity is also obvious if we look at the people who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and beyond - ongoing through to this moment - because they are not Jewish, and have for generations been reduced to life in camps. What do we call these camps? Unfortunately, playing right into Israel’s narrative, we call them refugee camps, shielding Israel from this aspect of its abuse of Jewish identity.

No - what is a refugee camp? It is a camp for people displaced by conflict or natural disaster, on account of which are unable to return home. But this has not applied to the Palestinians for 75 years. Since the end of 1948, they have been perfectly able to go home, have wanted nothing more than to go home, have the unqualified individual right to go home, and there is nothing stopping them from going home ... except that the Israeli state blocks them! Why? It blocks them because they are not Jewish.

So these are not refugee camps - they are Israeli internment camps for non-Jews, paid for by the ‘international community’. The term, ‘refugee camps’, obscures this crime Israel is committing in the name of Jews, making the fact that millions of people wake up every morning to the squalor of camps sound like some tragedy of circumstances. No - Israel keeps them imprisoned in internment camps, because they are not Jewish - end of story.

As an example of how cynical is Israel’s theft of Jewish identity, one of these Israeli internment camps for non-Jews, Shu’fat, is already in what is claimed to be Israel. According to Israel, East Jerusalem (where the camp is) is Israeli, as much a part of the state as any other. So, the people of Shu’fat camp do not even need to ‘return’ - they are already there!

But they are in camps. They are in camps, even though they are in Israel, according to Israel, in order to preserve Israel’s self-professed identity as ‘the Jewish state’ - a remarkably cynical term, in that its exterior demands unqualified respect, while its interior hides a neo-fascist, racist abuse of Jewish identity to empower its crimes against the Palestinians.


Since its purpose is to protect the state itself, not Jews, and since the very mission of the state is a racist one, anti-racists - that is, the vast majority of the people working for Palestinian liberation - are the targets of the smear, whereas actual anti-Jewish bigots, and even neo-fascists, are not targets because they are invariably avid supporters of the state.

I came of age in the United States during the height of the US-led war against Vietnam, and like many people of all ages at the time, I was active in the movement to stop it. Now, we were called traitors, but traitors to what? Traitors to a state of which I was a citizen by happenstance of the geography of my birth. It was an external aspect, not part of my DNA. Citizenship is like belonging to a club. Everyone - well, except the Palestinians and other stateless people - automatically belong to one of these clubs, and sometimes join another or resign from one.

But people brainwashed from birth by Zionism believe that Zionist ideology and the Israeli state are part of who they are. And it is for this reason that Israel does not allow Israeli nationality for Jews. The nationality of Jewish citizens of Israel is, by Israeli law, Jewish. Israel claims a hold on Jews by what it treats as ‘race’, and thus cannot be renounced. Israel claims to own Jews as Jews.

One example of how this plays out: in the 1980s, during former Lehi bigwig Yitzhak Shamir’s second term as Israeli prime minister, Russia finally allowed Jews to leave. Most wanted to go to the US, but Shamir, furious, called them ‘defectors’ and successfully coerced US president Ronald Reagan to close its doors in order to force them to go to Israel, where they were needed as place-holders for the state’s expansion into the West Bank.

In my view, this psychosis - this drug of anti-Semitism, to which Zionism has gotten its devotees addicted - is why we have the phenomenon of Zionist Jews faking anti-Semitic incidents, such as scrawling swastikas on the wall or their dormitory door, this sort of thing - even bomb scares - a phenomenon that I believe is more widespread than has been acknowledged.

Anti-Semitism has become a racket. For many years, organisations such as the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Community Service Trust and the Board of Deputies - or in the US the Anti-Defamation League - have been devoted to maintaining an ever-increasing hysteria over anti-Semitism, both to keep Zionism’s adherents terrified and satisfied, and to keep us silent.

Does anyone remember any of these organisations announcing, ‘Great news - anti-Semitism has declined this quarter’? Or even levelled off? No. It is so farcical that several years ago the Daily Mail reported that “Jews feel as threatened as they did in the holocaust, experts say”, and there has been no let-up since. Yet the media continue to parrot one new alarm after the other without betraying the slightest curiosity.

The struggle for Palestinian liberation demands that we counter this weapon - the militarisation of anti-Semitism. What, then, to do if you are falsely smeared with the ‘anti-Semitism’ label? Absolute rule: never respond on the terms handed you. Do not respond with protestations of your innocence; nor with any form of pseudo-apology for anything you did not do, thinking you will placate the inquisitors.

The smear is to silence you, of course; but they are also thrilled if you protest, because anti-Semitism remains the issue, you remain on the defensive, and because the words, ‘Palestine’, ‘apartheid’ and ‘genocide’ are nowhere to be found.

In my view - and I feel strongly that I am correct in this - when the Scarlet Letter, ‘A for anti-Semitism’, is scrawled on your chest, you should instead - correctly - boomerang the charge back. And it must include the words that the smear was intended to silence:

  • No - don’t blame Jews for the crimes of Israel.
  • I’m arguing for simple human rights. Stop smearing Jews as bigots - as opposing equality - in order to shield Israel.
  • No, the only anti-Jewish bigotry here is from those defending Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide in the name of Jews.


  • It is not enough to say that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism: rather, Zionism is anti-Semitism.
  • It is convoluted to say that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. Rather, adulation of Israel is far, far more likely to spring from anti-Semitism.

The militarisation of anti-Semitism has to be thrown back - exposed - for the racist outrage that it is. And here is why I maintain that the term ‘anti-Semitism’ should be dropped in favour of ‘anti-Jewish bigotry’, or any straightforward term consistent with how one would reference any other target of racism.

The smear, ‘anti-Semitic’, is a blunt weapon that not only infers Jewish (and is thus understood as Israeli) exceptionalism, but obscures precisely what act is being alleged. If instead the accuser is forced to clarify that bigotry against Jews (as opposed to Israel) is the accusation, that puts the onus on the accuser to explain why, for example, arguing for equal rights river to sea, is somehow anti-Jewish. It suddenly becomes more transparent that it is the accuser, not the accused, who is libelling Jews.

Israel - the world’s great purveyor of anti-Jewish bigotry - has created a world of smoke and mirrors out of the crime to grease the wheels of genocide. It is long overdue to clear the smoke and mirrors.