Ukraine: Canada must do better, faster, including in arms

Marc Bonhomme
February 6, 2023

We do not live in a world without war, far from it. Intense in Ukraine, Burma, Yemen, and yesterday in Ethiopia, the "deadliest of the 21st century" with 600,000 deaths according to Amnesty International, they are latent and endless in Palestine, Syria, Kurdistan, South Sudan, which only the Pope seems not to have forgotten, in the Sahel, and in eastern Congo-Kinshasa, with several million deaths over the past decades. However, they do not all have the same political and economic weight. This is what characterises the Ukrainian war, and sets it apart from the rest,

  • It is that it is located in Europe, whereas the others are in what used to be called the Third World;
  • That it only concerns 'white' peoples, unlike the others, in some cases;
  • That it directly concerns a great power that is involved tooth and nail and not marginally like France in the Sahel and Russia in Syria ... but increasingly through its mercenaries in Africa;
  • That it is only a 'traditional' war between states and not a civil war or an increasingly hybrid war as in Yemen (Saudi Arabia), Ethiopia (Eritrea), the Sahel (France, Russia), Syria (Russia, Iran, Lebanon);
  • That it synthesises the great wars of the twentieth century, whether global (great powers invading neighbouring countries) or colonial, even though these wars concerned countries not bordering the so-called Third World;
  • That it has an impact on the world economy, disrupting the energy and food markets, but especially those of dependent countries;
  • Last but not least, that it kicks the balance of global geopolitics into overdrive, shaking up NATO, weakening the CSTO, undermining the China-Russia rapprochement, pulling apart the alliances of the BRICS and others, and bringing the US back into focus on Europe after it struggled to extricate itself from the Middle East to focus on the Indo-Pacific.

For the first time since Vietnam, popular support for liberation is on the agenda

For better or worse, this war has touched the hearts of the so-called Western peoples and the strategic interest of their governments. It has rightly been denounced that 'white' peoples and governments only care about their own kind, especially the European kind. But this is only one side of the coin. For finally, especially in Europe, an international question, particularly of war and peace, is intruding into both major and popular political preoccupations, moreover in the sense of solidarity with the national liberation struggle of a people invaded by an imperialist power. We haven't seen this since the Vietnam war, when US "boys" risked their lives, even if this time the US was more involved than Europe (the wars in the former Yugoslavia were certainly in the news, but they didn't involve any "boots on the ground" from the imperialist countries, except for the passive blue helmets).

Of course, this time the "bad guys" are not the US, the dominant imperialism, but Russia, a secondary imperialism desperately fighting for its place in the imperialist pecking order. The loss of their Ukrainian, tsarist and then Stalinist colony, as important to Russia as Quebec is to Canada, would eventually reduce it, following its de-industrialisation except for armaments, to a fossil fuel power whose days are now numbered with the now more profitable renewable energies. The oligarchs, of which Putin is the leader, who are taking their capital out of Russia in spades, thereby compromising the accumulation of capital in Russia, have made no mistake about it.

A Russian defeat is a defeat of global imperialism, which pushes for global democratisation

On the other hand, to imagine that a Russian victory would play into the hands of the US is to fail to grasp that a Russian defeat would first and foremost be a global victory of the peoples against the imperialist clique, which is far more crucial than the strengthening of US imperialism at the expense of Russia. The defeat of US imperialism by both the Iraqi and Afghan peoples, after the defeat of Vietnam in the past, would be consolidated by the defeat of Russian imperialism. The fact that the Iraqi and Afghan regimes are undemocratic and worse - if you add the neo-Stalinist consolidation of Vietnam - demonstrates the barbaric consequences of imperialist wars and overlooks the fact that a country without the threat of invasion creates the political conditions for a popular reckoning with the national ruling classes.

A Russian defeat would increase the chances of a democratisation of both Russia, on the way to a fascist dictatorship, and Ukraine, a very neo-liberal democracy whose defeat would open the door to the domination of revanchist ultra-nationalism. (The Russian propaganda myth of a fascist Ukraine following a fascist revolt in 2014 ignores the derisory electoral score of Ukrainian fascist parties since then as well as the very real 2014 conquest by Russian henchmen of Crimea and part of the Donbass which earned Russia a slap on the wrist and Ukraine some modest US support). It should be added that the longer the war goes on, because of the lack of massive support for Ukraine from all sides and not because of an illusory absence of negotiations-capitulation that would reinforce the Russian go-it-alone attitude, the greater the suffering and the greater the risk of it getting out of hand.

Unlike the Vietnam War, both Canada and the US support the Ukrainian government which itself, particularly its president, has the support of the vast majority of the population despite the regime's inherent corruption and pro-oligarch, anti-union bias, which of course weakens national anti-imperialist unity. Like the Ukrainian left, the Western left and democrats must support the Ukrainian resistance and criticize its government until the Russian army is completely thrown out of Ukraine unless the Ukrainian people and government decide otherwise, given the human and material cost of Russian barbarism bent on obliterating Ukraine and for whom negotiating would only be buying time, which is not currently on the agenda for them.

Canadian support lags behind US support for Munich-style pacifism

Canada has so far received about 150,000 Ukrainian refugees against an acceptance of over 500,000 out of a demand of over 800,000. And there are also quite a few people from Burma, Yemen, Syria, especially after the devastating earthquake in the martyred city of Aleppo, who would need a Canadian refuge. We must demand to do better and faster in addition to demanding the cancellation of the foreign debt, starting with the Canadian debt, and not just be satisfied with a moratorium on repayment. It is not a $2 billion loan that should have been made, and even more, but a donation. The same goes for Burma's democratic resistance. The pressure of the large Ukrainian minority in Canada and the increasing alignment of Canadian junior imperialism with US hegemony mean that Canadian support for Ukraine is among the highest in terms of GDP, with the exception of the traumatised countries bordering Russia. Nevertheless, military support, given that Canada has no need for its military hardware except for adventures as junior partners of US imperialism in Afghanistan and elsewhere, could be well over $1 billion and four Leopard-2 tanks, of which Canada has about 20.

For many Canadian and Quebec progressives, either pacifist or obsessed with the US-NATO, which alone is evil incarnate, military support for Ukraine is anathema. This is a way of saying that Ukraine should let itself be crushed and then live under the boot of Russia, which, encouraged as Hitler was by the Munich Agreement, would continue its territorial conquests in order to reconstitute the tsarist-Stalinist empire. Needless to say, the danger of nuclear war would increase tenfold. Moreover, the hesitation of the US and Canadian governments to support the Ukrainian war effort as strongly as the USSR and Mao's China supported Vietnam has nothing to do with the danger of nuclear war, which was also present during the Vietnam War, but rather with the fear of the possible political consequences of a victory of the Ukrainian people over both Ukraine and Russia, which could set the whole plain on fire. It is the same fear that minimises support for the Burmese resistance by the imperialist and neighbouring countries, despite the fact that it is strictly democratic.