Ukraine: For a People’s Peace, not Imperial Peace

Liz Lawrence reports on a meeting held on Saturday 15 June for signatories of statement in favour of a people’s peace not an imperial peace in Ukraine

 

In response to the holding of an official conference on peace in Ukraine in Switzerland on 15/16 June, various left, ecosocialist and feminist organisations and organisations in solidarity with Ukraine produced a statement for a people’s peace, not an imperial peace.

Signatories of the statement were invited to an online meeting on Saturday 15th June. There were 48 people present at the meeting. The statement is open until the end of June for organisations and individuals to sign.  The meeting lasted about two and a half hours.  Attendees were from various parts of Europe, North America and South Africa.

Speakers

The first speaker was Hanna Perekhoda of Sotsialnyi Rukh. She condemned any proposals to force Ukraine to accept peace on Russian term. For Ukrainians in occupied areas, this would mean living and dying under a regime of occupation which murders, rapes, tortures and kills civilians. Lack of support for victims of aggression encourages psychopaths to solve internal legitimacy problems with external wars. There is a rise of fascism and revanchist politics in the international arena. In her analysis she located the Russian Federation within a range of reactionary states.  Putin promotes a global project, imposing new global rules, which normalise the right of the strongest to rule.  Putin opposes liberals and cultural Marxists who promote ideas about rule of law, human rights etc.  Israel is destroying Gaza and the US is complicit in this destruction.

The second speaker was Denys Pilash of Sotsialnyi Rukh. He was delayed in making his contribution to the discussion because of problems of power cuts and rationing of electricity, which are commonly experienced in Ukraine.  Denys stated that the Kremlin has never negotiated in good faith. Putin is demanding withdrawal of Ukrainian forces so that Russia can annex Ukrainian territory. There have been past agreements not to redraw borders, which Russia has ignored. Russian action in Ukraine is a dangerous precedent. Putin has a vision of multipolarity, in which only a limited number of large states will have any voice in the international arena. This is an issue for the world not just for Ukraine.  Denys also spoke about problems of campism and nice-sounding and pacifist slogans which end up endorsing Putin’s war and imperialism.

Both the speakers from Sotsialnyi Rukh emphasised the international dimensions of the war and the question of what the international order is to be.

The third speaker was Vlad Siiutkin, who was a member of the Russian Socialist Party, which is no longer operating as a political party on account of the level of state repression in the Russian Federation. He reported some social surveys of Russian attitudes to the war, which showed different answers depending on how the questions were formulated. When asked about negotiations the surveys showed support for a negotiated settlement, not just for pursuing the war. Vlad explained that Putin had empowered some individuals and groups within Russian society to win the war, but sometimes these people had turned on Putin, e.g. Prigozhin. He also talked about the role of wives and mothers of Russian soldiers. There are protests by wives and mothers of soldiers who want their menfolk to come home. These women are paradoxically empowered in a way by the patriarchal ideology of Putin, which emphasises women’s roles as wives and mothers, and some of these women are now openly protesting against the war.

Joao Woyzeck, a member of the Swiss Movement for Socialism, spoke about the role of Switzerland as a trading centre and Swiss capital and its assistance to Russia. Russia relies on western technology for its military. 80% of raw materials from Russia are traded via Switzerland. Swiss companies have also set up subsidiaries to trade in Russian oil and gas and are also trading in grain stolen from Ukraine. The opaque financial system allows wealthy Russians to keep assets hidden in Switzerland. He also talked about Swiss neutrality and different ways it can be interpreted. The principle of neutrality is enshrined in the Swiss constitution. Neutrality can be defined as staying neutral but upholding some common values or it can be a complete neutrality which rules out any economic sanctions against the Russian Federation. For parties on the right in Switzerland neutrality means complete neutrality and putting profit about the rights of Ukrainians and so effectively supporting Putin.

Declaration

Christian Zeller talked about the declaration, which had been launched 10 days earlier and the process of getting endorsements. 36 organisations had signed plus individuals.

The key demand is for a comprehensive and just peace. The objective is to build solidarity with Ukrainian resistance and to launch debate about how we would like to organise the continent of Europe. The EU elections showed forces of the left lack a common joint project. He mentioned three points of the declaration: ending western complicity with Russian and any other attempts to pressurise Ukraine in to making massive concessions; opposition to imposition of a neo-liberal economic agenda on Ukraine; and in favour of western powers delivering necessary arms to Ukraine.

Christian also spoke about the huge wave of rearmament and increased budgets for the armaments industry. This is an ecological issue. The left needs to oppose these programmes, but to argue for existing stocks of weapons to be sent to Ukraine.  We should oppose export of arms to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt etc.  His contribution focused on how to combine solidarity with Ukraine, resistance to the far right and resistance to neo-liberal austerity.

There was then some questions and discussion.  This covered areas like how Putin might be using the term ‘cultural Marxism’; the collaboration between right-wing forces worldwide and the Russian government; Putin’s opposition to LGBT+ rights; how the left could develop alternatives; the dialogue of the peripheries being encouraged by the Commons journal; how in Ukraine in wartime conditions can the left bring together various progressive grassroots organisations; and how to build Ukraine solidarity in various countries, especially where many on the left oppose arms for Ukraine.

Dick Nicholls spoke about the importance of the French Popular Front declaration, which includes support for continuing arms supplies to Ukraine, a position previously opposed by Jean-Luc Melenchon.

There was some discussion as to whether the statement should have included more about international law.

Solidarity

Overall, it was a quite wide-ranging discussion, obviously held in the context of the successes for the right in the recent European Union elections.  There was awareness of the problem of how the left responds to rising militarism, while opposing campism and pacifism and supporting the right of Ukraine to access arms for self-defence.  The other context of the discussion was awareness of how parties of the right across Europe and other parts of the world are empowered by actions of dictators, such as Putin.


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Liz Lawrence is a past President of UCU and active in UCU Left.


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