The four previous posts have featured readings dealing with the crisis in Ukraine and the geopolitics behind it. They cover a wide range of viewpoints and perspectives. Some we agree with, others not so much but they’re useful so merit inclusion and there are a few we strongly disagree with. The aim of this exercise was partly to help us understand what is a messy, complex and dangerous situation. It was also to offer a range of views that would hopefully foster an informed discussion about the crisis. As we appear to be in a headlong rush towards a major war, it feels as though the opportunities for informed discussion are rapidly diminishing.
We’ve put up these readings in good faith in the hope that some people will study them with a view to getting past what feels like the most intense barrage of propaganda we’ve ever been subjected to. Now we’re going to have our say on the situation, albeit with the caveat that as more information and analysis emerges from the inevitable fog of war, we will be reviewing and if needed, changing our position.
When you look at the way both Russia and Ukraine are set up, to be blunt, they’re both gangster states. That’s not the fault of the people in either country – it’s down to the way the chaos of the collapse of the Soviet Union was manipulated by the West, allowing oligarchs to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth from privatised former state industries and utilities. Neighbouring Belarus is a gangster state but as they’re very tightly linked to Putin, they’re viewed by him in a completely different way to Ukraine who very much want to orientate towards the West. This is a pretty good summary of how Ukraine has orientated itself (or has been orientated): Timeline: Euromaidan, the original “Ukraine Crisis” – Kit Knightly | OffGuardian – 24.02.22.
A revanchist Putin led Russia on the one hand and a Western orientated Ukraine used as a strategic pawn by NATO on the other hand was never going to be a stable situation. There’s a grim inevitability about the situation we’re now facing which could have been avoided if the will had been there: The peace that could have been – Tim Black | Spiked – 26.02.22.
We are where we are. The larger gangster state, Putin’s Russia, has sent its military into the territory of the smaller neighbouring gangster state, Ukraine. It’s not an even match although reports from a number of sources indicate that it’s not going as well as Putin thought it would. That’s not just militarily on the ground in Ukraine but also domestically where there have been anti-war protests in a number of cities across Russia as shown in the map below. This piece by Russian anarchists provides useful background on some of the domestic currents of resistance to Putin’s war: Spring Is Coming: Take to the Streets against the War – Avtonom – 04.03.22. How long the protests are able to continue as Putin’s regime cracks down on any manifestation of anti-war sentiment or dissent, only time will tell.
A lot hinges on how the Russian population react to what could be a long, protracted conflict. There’s still the haunting memory of the failed intervention in Afghanistan, the humiliation of which was one of the factors that led to the end of the Soviet Union. If the body bags start coming back to Russia in significant numbers along with sanctions crippling the economy and reducing many to poverty, will Russians rally around Putin or will they start to question and resist his rule in growing numbers? Only time will tell but we sincerely hope it will be the latter…
Whatever your views may be on the geopolitics leading up to the conflict, the people of Ukraine have the right to defend themselves against occupying forces. However, the does not come without its complications. Given the well documented influence of the far right in Ukrainian politics, this makes resistance a fraught matter when you’re in a life and death situation and unable to pick and choose who you fight alongside. This piece from anarchists in Ukraine explains the difficulties they face in dealing with the threat from Putin on the one hand and the malign influence of the far right on the other: War and Anarchists: Anti-Authoritarian Perspectives in Ukraine – Published on: CrimethInc – 15.02.22.
For more anarchist perspectives from the region on the crisis, it’s definitely worth regularly checking in on this site – https://avtonom.org/en
A few weeks ago, while there were rumblings about an invasion, life felt like it was getting back to some kind of normality as the last of the Covid restrictions were being lifted and the threat of vaccine passports leading to a universal digital identity were receding into the background. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Putin defied the expectations of a fair few commentators who thought he was just posturing by actually moving into Ukraine. Ever since then, it’s been wall to wall coverage of the crisis ranging from a few well reasoned reports through to blatant war propaganda which if acted upon, will escalate an already serious situation to unprecedented levels of danger. Our task since this erupted has been trying to pick out the signals from the cacophony of noise.
Firstly, there’s the virtue signalling. It may just be us but it feels like a fair number of people who were virtue signalling about their stance on Covid lockdowns and vaccinations have pivoted towards showing their ‘solidarity’ to Ukraine. Basically meaningless gesture politics that make those doing them feel good but do sod all to help those caught up in the conflict. A completely different proposition to genuine, meaningful solidarity work such as getting medical and humanitarian supplies out to the conflict zone and providing support to refugees fleeing from Ukraine. Work undertaken by comrades who don’t feel any need to boost their egos by broadcasting to the world what they’re doing because they understand what solidarity and mutual aid are about.
What’s worse than individual virtue signalling is the corporate variety and the institutional cancelling and othering of Russian culture. This includes the pulling of the Comparethemarket Russian meerkat adverts – Meerkat ads pulled over Ukraine war sensitivities – BBC News and the attempt to pull a course on the Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, at the Milano-Bicocca University in Italy: Ukraine: Dostoevsky course reinstated after cancellation sparks row – 02.03.22. Actions that fail to differentiate between Putin’s regime on the one hand and on the other, Russian culture and people. Actions that lead to othering and ultimately, de-humanisation. Anyone cheering on this kind of behaviour really needs to take a good look at themselves.
Then there are the calls for NATO to initiate and enforce a no fly zone over Ukraine. Calls from people who really should know better than to call for a course of action which would plunge us headlong into a major war with devastating consequences for millions of people. These two pieces explain just how lethally dangerous these calls for a no fly zone are: US/NATO is in the Grip of a Daemonic Death-Wish & the Entire World is Threatened – Edward Curtin – OffGuardian – 01.03.22 and: The lethal stupidity of a No Fly Zone – Tim Black – Spiked – 01.03.22. As soon as the first Russian fighter plane is downed by NATO, the war will escalate in unpredictable and dangerous ways. Once events really start to spin out of control, the possibility of the conflict becoming a nuclear one could well move alarmingly to a probability. Should the worst happen and the missiles start flying then it’s game over for all of us with no winners. ‘Building back better’ from piles of irradiated rubble will be an impossibility. This is why those armchair generals and keyboard warriors calling for a NATO no fly zone need to be robustly ‘educated’.
At the very least, a tit for tat sanctions war will throw many people into poverty as fuel, energy and food prices soar. Should there be any form of British military involvement that means we would effectively be at war with Russia, then the emergency restrictions that will be imposed would make those imposed at the start of the Covid crisis look like a tea party by comparison. Given what has been done to us over the last two years, if the government does go down the war route, they’ve a pretty shrewd idea of what they can get away with imposing on us. Should the threat of nuclear war start to become a reality, then the level of restrictions needed to keep the lid on what will by the be a very angry and agitated populace will be off the scale and pretty bloody brutal.
Normally when concluding an article, we’d try to sum up where we are and where we could and should be going. These are not normal times. Trying to predict what will happen in a fast moving war situation and separate the signal from the noise is extremely difficult. When you add on what feels like an endless barrage of pro-war propaganda and fear mongering, it’s almost impossible. As ever, pieces like these are snapshots in time written in an attempt to understand events that will be written about in history – if any of us survive that is. The only thing that can be said at the moment is that the anarchist concept of living life without being governed by a state is looking more appealing than ever…