Where are your red lines?

Simon Pearson voices his frustration with those on the left refusing active solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

It should be no surprise to those who spend their time reading the output of some on the radical left, Russian aggression in Ukraine has them in a kerfuffle. One must be a contortionist to accept some of the positions being adopted. Theory can inform, but it should not be mangled to fit a narrative. However, this is not a piece to offer individual critique of all the wrongheadedness on show.

Instead, I want to concentrate on the reality the Ukrainian people find themselves in. What happened in previous conflicts cannot excuse Putin’s actions today. Once Russian artillery is used to shell civilian areas the ‘whataboutery’ ends. Is one really a warmonger in calling for the west to supply military equipment to those defending Ukraine? Military aid that can be used to preserve hospitals, schools, universities and homes? Infrastructure that has already been targeted and destroyed by Putin’s war machine. This is not fake news written up by the mainstream media, or a CIA wet dream of fire and brimstone to justify a new cold war. This is the now in Mariupol, Chernihiv, and Kyiv.

How many Ukrainian children must perish as western leftists debate the imperial nature of the conflict? We may find ourselves on the same side as one’s imperialists not because we support imperialism but because the alternative is not a hypothetical analysis of working-class revolution in Russia bringing the war to an end. The Ukrainians huddled in the basement of a bombed-out tower block probably do not care that, at this moment, they are governed by a bourgeois neoliberal government. They just want to live.

We must avoid ‘jam tomorrow’ and concentrate on the material aid we can give today. Food, water, medicines and yes, defensive armaments will far better serve the working-class of Ukraine than rhetoric. Therefore, the actuality of war should be at the forefront of the solidarity we offer. It is crucial we recognise the war that is being fought is not the one we want nor need to prove our theoretical positions correct. 

Where are your red lines? Is it 500 children dead? Or are the deaths of innocents’ mere agitprop?

Those standing in rubble do not look to the past. What has gone provides no reference point to the hell they now occupy. Some on the left hide in the past, seek comfort in the familiar touch of the theory that confirms their worldview. Unable to recognise the world has changed, they can no longer be seen as the vanguard. They are destined to be forgotten, apart from the tall tales they will recount about when, if only, it was almost so.

I do not mask myself with the stench of patriotic fervour, my country right or wrong. It is often wrong.

Find no glory in war.

Smart bombs are dumb.

There can be no more powerful a lie than ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’. So please don’t lecture me with theory. Unless you can back words with action. If not, the theory you espouse remains lifeless on the page, bereft of form.


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Simon Pearson is on the Editorial Board of the Anti*Capitalist Resistance and is a Midlands-based political activist.


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