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Statement on Ukraine

April 19, 2022
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We express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine struggling against the attempt by the Russian state to re-colonize them. We condemn both the invasion, and the long campaign of aggression that Russia has waged against Ukrainians.

Since the collapse of the USSR, the Russian state has directed its violence at colonized and formerly colonized people in an attempt to solidify its sphere of influence and exploitation. The invasion of Ukraine is the latest in a long line of imperialist wars and interventions including Chechnya, Georgia, the Central African Republic, and support for the regimes in Myanmar, Syria, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

The economic interests of Russia’s oligarchy are clear in Ukraine. Putin’s Russia is a state built on oil and gas, which relies on their control of these resources to both fund the state and to coerce other nations into silence and complicity with their state violence. Ukraine, the country through which the main Russian pipelines run, also is a potential competitor with the second largest gas reserves in Europe. Russia seeks to control these, as well as the coal fields of Donbas- the fourth largest in Europe- and the region’s industrial capacity. Ukraine is also the breadbasket, whose fertile black earth produces incredible exports to the Middle East and Africa. Under that soil lies immense mineral wealth. Ukraine is the 2nd leading country in the world in gallium extraction, the 5th in germanium, 6th in titanium, 7th in iron, and 8th in manganese. Its lithium reserves are among the largest in Europe- much of it concentrated in eastern and central Ukraine. Finally, control of Crimea, and southern Ukraine to secure that colony,  is key to Russia’s ability to project naval power and trade power through the Black Sea and beyond.

Putin’s speech and repeated statements by his government have framed Ukrainian identity as a fiction, and reduced Ukrainians to “Little Russians”, in need of paternalistic leadership from Moscow. The proposals for an occupation of Ukraine published in RIA Novisti, and the actions of the Russian army across the zones they have occupied, reveal what this really means- a genocidal assault on all the peoples of Ukraine and on the idea of Ukrainians as having a distinct culture and existence. Russian “liberation” of Ukraine has meant the mass execution of unarmed civilians, the shelling of residential areas, systematic sexual violence, and the mass deportation of tens of thousands of Ukrainians- over 15,000 from Mariupol alone- to Russia. Deportees are reportedly being sent to “filtration camps'', a system used in the Chechen wars. From there, they are being sent to remote cities in the interior of Russia, or offered “jobs” in under-developed and depressed regions, particularly in the Russian Far East, such as Sakhalin. Taken together, these atrocities constitute a pattern that is genocidal and settler-colonial. It is no wonder, then, that Ukrainians have greeted their “liberators” not with bread and salt, but with sunflower seeds and fire.

As an alliance of revolutionary workers committed to antifascism and anti-imperialism, we reject the bad-faith claims that Putin’s state has made, that their war is against NATO or against Nazism. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has unified NATO as never before and been taken as vindication for the decision of so many eastern European countries to join the western imperialist led bloc. Three of the only remaining European nations not already in NATO- Ireland, Finland, and Sweden- have for the first time in their history seen majority support for joining the alliance and even begun concrete steps to do so. This war is a gift to NATO. The impunity with which a nuclear armed power can assault smaller nations is pushing each state to align itself into blocs led by nuclear-armed world powers. The cost of entering these protection rackets is rendering their labor, natural wealth, and markets to capital based in the nuclear powers. The logic of state power carries on, regardless of the professed ideologies behind each bloc, between the empires and vassals in this atomic feudalism. Now, even when empires fall, the invasion of Ukraine and the broken promises of the Budapest Memorandum will cast their shadow over any decision by a nuclear power to disarm.

The far right has played a role on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides in this conflict since its beginning. With the old authoritarian left fatally discredited to many Eastern Europeans, and the liberatory left rebuilding itself after decades of repression, the nationalist far right has seen growth across the former Soviet Bloc for decades. Their narrative appealed to many people whose hopes of stability had been dashed with the looting of eastern Europe by oligarchs both east and west, and whose communities had a history of centuries of occupation and repression by empires around them.  While the far right were marginal in Ukrainian politics for the first two decades of its existence, they rose to greater prominence by positioning themselves as a major force fighting the riot police, berkut, during the Maidan in 2014, and then forming a core of early membership in the volunteer detachments against the Russian annexations of Crimea and the Donbas. During this time, the Ukrainian far right has been responsible for a number of hateful and violent attacks. Their political ambitions, however, have been frustrated as Ukrainians have continued to support a more liberal, civic nationalism in recent years. The more system-disloyal far right elements also had to be brought under control by the military or replaced with system-loyal leaders in order to satisfy western conditions on military aid. There is only one far right representative in the Rada, and the far right are harsh critics of the Sluha Narodu government under Zelensky. While there is a far right problem in Ukraine, as there is across Europe, it is by no means a “Nazi state” as Putin’s war propaganda claims. The far right is significantly more powerful in several other European countries, including Russia, and in the US. Ukraine’s far right problem is reflective of the broader trend.

On the Russian side, meanwhile, the attempted annexation of Donbas has, from day one, seen far right organizations working hand in hand with local pro-Russian separatists and FSB agents. Thousands of fighters have, for eight years, flooded eastern Ukraine. They are drawn from groups like Russian National Unity, the Russian Orthodox Army, Russian Imperial Movement, the Other Russia (a National Bolshevik party), Eurasianist Party, Slavic Union, Movement Against Illegal Immigration, Terek Wolves Sotnia, the mercenary Wagner Group, and volunteers from the vast network of far-right groups to which Russian ultra-nationalists and the Russian state itself have ties. In the Donbas break-away regions, Roma have been targeted by pogroms, queer people expelled, non-Orthodox believers attacked, and independent trade unions, feminist organizations, and the press repressed. Occupied Crimea has seen all of Russia’s repressive state violence imported, along with a special targeting of the indigenous Tatar people. Now, this violence is magnified and targets the whole of Ukraine, while the American and European far right from Trump and Carlson to Le Pen to Orban make excuses for Putin.

We remember the words of Durruti- "No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges."

There is, fortunately, a force more powerful than either the nationalists or the imperialists who can stop Putin’s imperialism and turn back fascism- the struggle of ordinary people arrayed against him in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and the whole sphere of influence he claims. More than 15,000 Russians have been arrested in anti-war protests since the beginning of the war. Facing intense repression of peaceful protest, with the critical mass to overcome the state not yet reached, some are turning to guerilla direct action, such as the burning of military infrastructure, to stand with the Ukrainians and to save their fellow Russians from being used as Putin’s cannon fodder. In Belarus, used as a staging ground and logistics corridor for the invasion, the working people who resisted Lukashenko in the country’s recent near-revolution are now carrying out a “rail war” targeting the supply lines of the invading army. Belarusian opposition figures speak openly of ousting Lukashenko. Belarusians dissidents, Russian deserters, and rebel Chechens are among the forces of international fighters allying with the Ukrainian military.  In Ukraine, people have taken to a general mobilization in the territorial defense forces, creating as almost nowhere else in the world an armed working class- and, after the war, a class who knows they played an active role in defeating their own colonization. Our anarchist and antifascist comrades have formed a unit in the Committee of Resistance, with the support and international fund-raising of our movement across the world. These growing forces have the potential to widen the struggle, beyond a war of national defense against colonization, beyond and against the control of the state, into an international struggle to smash autocracy. Under the thick-packed snow of empire and nationalism, the green shoots of revolution are beginning to push through.

The current siloviki and oligarchs in the Russian sphere of influence rose to power with the complicity of the oligarchs of the west, who were content to work with Putin so long as they could buy natural resources, exploit cheap labor, and enjoy the luxury spending of Russia’s kleptocrats in London, Cyprus, New York, Milan, or Miami. They would be content to allow a new gang of strongmen and robber barons to police the eastern world for them. But where Russian imperialism is the iron fist of a tank, the imperialism of the west wears a glove, and enforces its will first through debt and trade before resorting to missiles. Freedom for Ukraine requires not only the defeat of the Russian invasion, but also the breaking of debt bondage. This is becoming a growing point of solidarity among left forces, globally, who are organizing in support of Ukrainian workers. It is up to us not only to support liberatory working class forces within Ukraine and all other former colonies against imperialism both east and west, but also against their own ruling class. Most importantly, it is up to us to build in our own communities the revolutionary power of working and oppressed people; the liberation of all people is bound up in the liberation of all others. An injury to one is an injury to all.

In conclusion, we offer the following suggested points of action, for workers looking to resist the invasion of Ukraine and build revolutionary power.

Points of Action

1. Support the Ukrainian resistance, particularly strengthening the organized anti-authoritarian revolutionaries and workers, such the Committee of Resistance and Black Flag. Donate to Operation Solidarity, in order to assist anarchists in Ukraine in providing both defense of their communities and in providing humanitarian relief.

2. Support the anti-war and anti-regime movements in Russia and Belarus, in particular the anarchist and allied forces participating in them, and donate to the Anarchist Black Cross chapters in each country. Support for Rev Dia, Autonomous Action, and other revolutionary anarchist and libertarian socialist organizations.

3. Support all war refugees. Reject the racist double standards by which refugees from Europe are welcome while others are pushed away, and welcome refugees from all countries. Let us build solidarity between our diasporas.

4. Take workplace action against Russian corporate interests. Take direct action to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs. Redistribute the wealth of oligarchs to the refugees of their wars.

5. Demand the forgiveness of Ukraine’s debt, and the debt of all former colonized nations.

6. Demand immediate action to prevent spiraling food insecurity in the global south, as a result of this war disrupting Russian and Ukrainian exports of food to the Middle East and Africa.

7. Oppose fascist opportunism and entryism into the movement in solidarity with Ukraine and the anti-war movement, whatever their geopolitical sympathies. Confront denialism of war atrocities from the right or the left.

8. Support now and in the future the building of industrial organization and worker power in the communities in which we live and work, and build international ties with worker struggles, unions, and particularly radical labor formations in the former Soviet countries and around the world.