Right To Weapons. How Can Leftists Support Ukraine?

The left and internationalists must recognize that a front against imperialism is impossible without armed resistance. Russia's invasion in Ukraine is currently the most brazen and cynical imperialist attack in the world. Behind the criticism of arms supplies to Ukraine is the ill-concealed desire to defeat the Ukrainian people, inspired by Kremlin propaganda

Looking back at the recent vote in German parliament concerning heavy weapons supplies, where die Linke voted against it and de facto refused to support Ukraine’s resistance once again, we thought it is reasonable to remind about our stance on this issue. Die Linke together with right-wing populist party AFD were the only political parties to oppose arms supplies, with similar arguments about forcing Germany to participate in this war and fear of potential nuclear war. We have heard arguments like these from various leftists many times, which is why we decided to translate a text by Zakhar Popovych from «Sotsialnyi Rukh» that engages with these common points. This text is primarily addressed to European and generally western leftists, whose countries are some of most powerful and influential globally and also have probably the most significant influence on the war in Ukraine.

The left and internationalists must learn that an anti-imperialist front is impossible without armed resistance. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is currently the most impudent and cynical imperialist attack in the world. Behind the criticism of arms supplies to Ukraine is the ill-concealed desire for defeat of Ukrainian people, inspired by Kremlin propaganda.

A number of left-wing parties in the European Union have recently issued a joint statement calling for speeding up arms supplies to Ukraine. There is no doubt that the development of an effective internationalist movement is impossible without a united front against imperialism and all kinds of resistance, including armed, to imperialist aggression. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is currently the most impudent and cynical imperialist attack in the world. Despite the heroic resistance of Ukrainians, Russia’s full-scale military offensive continues. As this text is being written, people are dying en masse from shellings and bombings. It is not surprising that the need to stop the Russian army immediately, which can only be done by military force now, is the number one priority for all opponents of imperialism.

Artificial opposition

At the same time, attempts to oppose support for Ukraine by referring to importance of local socio-economic problems instead still can be seen among Western leftists. For example, some authors who position themselves as socialists and even internationalists go as far as to call trade unions to focus on declining living standards and rising prices for heating and utilities in the UK instead of showing solidarity with Ukraine. Such opposition is, in our opinion, artificial and very harmful.

It is unfortunate that even today, even after the brutal bombing of densely populated urban areas and thousands of civilian casualties, there are still people trying, if not to justify the aggressor, at least to blur responsibility by asking “both sides” for a ceasefire.

Yes, it is possible that during street fights a certain house could be damaged by fire from any side, but it is the peak of cynicism to call defenders of Ukrainian cities to cease fire because of this and, one should assume, to not resist the enemy, who will continue to kill unarmed people and prisoners. It should be emphasized that there could be no armed confrontation at all in residential areas, as well as the war on the territory of Ukraine in general, if Russian troops did not cross the border on February 24 and started assaulting Ukrainian cities.

A truce at the cost of dignity?

Stopping resistance for Ukrainians now would mean renouncing their own human dignity, the right to be free and not to recognize themselves as slaves, whose fate will be determined by Moscow-appointed leaders. After all, Putin’s invasion not only publicly refuses the right of Ukrainians to determine their own destiny, but also obviously brings the elimination of most democratic and social rights with it, as has already happened in the LDNR (Donezk and Luhansk “peoples republics”) and is happening rapidly in Russia.

It is hard to imagine how the so-called “leftists” who justify Russia in this war are going to mobilize people to fight for their social rights and for a just society, if they now support depriving these people of most of their rights. Even the basic struggle for raising wages, and even more so the workers’ strike, can only occur where there is workers dignity. As for systemic social change in favor of the working class, it is possible only on the basis of a mass grassroots movement, just like a self-governing “Maidan” democracy, which is so hated by Putin’s clique. After all, Putin’s worldview denies the very possibility of self-organization, arguing that all grassroots movements are always organized by mysterious foreign agents. Of course, the Maidan is not always a social revolution, but every social revolution is first and foremost a Maidan.

Inconvenient democracy

Whatever the shortcomings of post-Maidan Ukraine, elections were held regularly, often pushing new parties and new leaders to power against the wishes of the country’s current leadership. Unlike Russia, which has consistently moved towards restraining democratic freedoms and turning the election into a spectacle with predetermined winners. Ukrainians were well aware of this and were aware that they wanted to move in the opposite direction. Ukrainians obviously did not want to live in a regime like Russia’s, and even more so like in LDNR. They stubbornly wanted to decide for themselves how things should be. This is the main “threat to Russia’s security.”

Now we have an absolutely obvious large-scale invasion on the territory of Ukraine by the troops of the Russian Federation. In other words, they are attacking an independent country with which Russia itself has previously concluded treaties of friendship, security guarantees and has always cynically expressed support for its territorial integrity.

Even Russia itself admits that there is a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, not a “special operation”. Even the extremely cautious Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations has begun to use the word “war” in relation to what is happening in Ukraine.

The state television of the Russian Federation showed its troops in Gostomel near Kyiv near the destroyed “Mriya”, in Kherson, and in many places in the south, east and north of Ukraine. As it is now documented, these troops are not only shooting peaceful demonstrations against the Russian occupation, but also shooting civilians they simply did not like or those who arouse suspicion. If hundreds of civilian corpses have already been found in little Bucha, the number of corpses in Mariupol will undoubtedly be thousands, if not tens of thousands. Russia has officially announced shellings of facilities in all regions of Ukraine. In general, many more people have died in the last month and a half of war in Ukraine than in the previous eight years after Maidan. Thus, according to UN estimates, the total number of civilians killed in the conflict in Donbass for the entire period from April 14, 2014 until September 30, 2021 is about 3393 people. In the last month, the “DPR” alone has confirmed more than 5,000 casualties among civilians and mobilized “militias” – a clearly understated figure.

Guilty because unconquered

At the same time, all this is justified in Putin’s speech by stating that “Ukrainians are one people with Russians.” That is, in fact, an impudent denial of the right of Ukrainians to their own separate identity, the right to be themselves, the right to decide for themselves what to do, the right to their own state. Putin’s historic lecture was an attempt to publicly humiliate every single Ukrainian, made officially by the president of a neighboring state in a particularly audacious and cynical manner. Such rhetoric alone could only unite Ukrainians against Russia, but when the Russian army decided to force Ukrainians to admit that they don’t actually exist, the war really turned into a patriotic one for Ukrainians. This applies to Ukrainians of all nationalities and ethnic groups, both those who mainly use Ukrainian and Russian in their everyday lives. Putin denied the existence not of the Ukrainian ethnic group, but of the Ukrainian multiethnic civil nation and the self-governing state created by this nation.

Putin’s invasion has made almost every Ukrainian feel that one can preserve dignity only by defeating the Russian occupiers. To obey will mean to become slaves, to forget not only one’s own language but also one’s own rights, to forbid oneself to think freely and to decide for oneself. This is how the demands of “denazification” and “demilitarization” sound to Ukrainians, which were recently clarified by Russian state news agencies as the demands of “de-Ukrainization” of Ukraine. That is, Ukrainians were ultimately guilty of existing.

All the talk about the invasion being provoked by something does not stand up to criticism.

NATO factor

Attempts to justify aggression by an alleged NATO threat look ridiculous, considering all instructors and even diplomats of many NATO countries have demonstratively left Ukraine a month before the invasion. Could a firm statement that NATO member countries’ soldiers would not take part in the conflict under any circumstances be considered a provocation? Maybe the provocation, on the contrary, was that Ukraine seemed too accessible?

And if we consider a “provocation” the fact that Ukraine tried to arm itself and increase the combat capacity of its armed forces, we must also remember that the low combat capacity of the Armed Forces in 2014 only led to the Russian troops occupying Ukrainian territories and establishing authoritarian regimes there. In general, the talk about provocation here is analogical victim blaming, such as blaming women for provoking an attempted rape by stocking up on a pepper spray for self-defense.

It does not make sense to deny the aggressive role of NATO countries in the world and global rivalry, but the aggressive actions of certain NATO countries in the Middle East and Latin America do not justify aggression against Ukraine. It is Russia that has chosen the path of non-recognition of Ukraine as a subject of agreements, choosing coercion and subjugation by force, or even destruction of the country instead. It was after the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s incitement to war in the Donbas that the majority of Ukraine’s population began to incline to the need for NATO membership. Of course, Russia’s aggression does not negate NATO’s aggression, and further escalation of the conflict involving NATO countries undoubtedly threatens a global war with millions of victims. It can be speculated that the myth of “NATO expansion” provoked the Russian elite to retaliate. However, the actions taken by Russia were in no way determined by the actions of other countries. All the talk about NATO’s general aggression does not change the fact that there is currently only one aggressor in Ukraine – and that is Russia.

About peaceful warfare

Talks about Russia being forced to invade Ukraine to end the war in Donbass are even more absurd. Thus, in the early stages of war in 2014 and 2015 due to active participation of the Russian Armed Forces a significant number of civilians (including all passengers of flight MH17) were killed in Donbass, but after the current President of Ukraine came to power the intensity of shelling and casualties was approaching zero. Even after the artificial escalation at the end of 2021 and increased number of shellings, primarily by the LDNR, there were only isolated civilian casualties, hundreds if not a thousand times less than now. Thus, the best strategy to save lives in the Donbass was to freeze the conflict and withdraw troops, which did not happen because of Russia’s reluctance. Precisely because the goal of the Russians was not to stop the war, not to stop the suffering of the civilian population, but to gain control over Ukraine.

Immediately it became clear to everyone that saving the lives of civilians was not a priority for the Kremlin. It turned out that the only thing the Kremlin wanted was the implementation of the Minsk agreements in such a way that the Russian leadership could control Ukraine’s key political decisions through its appointed leaders of the so-called “LPR” and “DPR”. In other words, Kremlin’s main motivation was and is not the interests of civilians, but the sovereign Russian right to neglect their interests at its own will. It has become clear that the right to authoritatively appoint part of the leaders in Ukraine is Putin’s key interest, which he will not give up under any circumstances.

The authoritarian “LPR” and “DPR”, as well as the puppet nature of the Kremlin-appointed leadership of these entities, was obvious and often recognized even by those who in 2014 supported their creation. The so-called “elections” to the “parliaments” of the “LPR” and the “DPR” were a laughingstock that even the “deputies” of these bodies were ashamed to mention. Even those who saw elements of the popular uprising and civil war in Donbas in 2014 were forced to admit that these regimes, at least after 2015, are military dictatorships backed only by Russian weapons. There were no elections and no political life in the Russian-occupied Donbass, and this was very visible to Ukrainians on both sides of the line.

A living example

Political life in Ukraine had its drawbacks. In particular, “decommunization” policy is clearly harmful and in no way meets democratic standards. The inclusion a clause on NATO membership in the Constitution of and the obvious right-wing nationalist campaign around “language and religion” have undoubtedly harmed Ukraine a lot. But at the same time, Ukraine has always maintained a pluralistic political system, and due to meticulous mutual control of political forces, elections were held regularly, the results of which were determined not by fraud, but by real, true and accurate voting results.

In Ukraine, presidents and the composition of parliament have changed. Ukrainians elected a simple man of Jewish descent from a mostly working-class city who was not only a talented actor but also a great leader and was able to unite Ukrainians like no other for defense against invasion from the East. Whether one likes it or not, Ukrainians respect themselves and their choice and the ability to make decide freely, take responsibility for their choice and if necessary, change their minds and choices.

Volodymyr Zelensky, of course, is primarily a representative of the bourgeoisie and, aside from some positive developments in the anti-corruption policy, he is carrying out reforms that limit the rights of workers and narrow the social guarantees of Ukrainians. But he was elected by the Ukrainian workers nonetheless, and it was up to them to judge him and whether to elect him for a second term. And Zelensky is well aware that he must act in the interests of his electorate, and it is them, and not other states, who must and will decide about his political future. In the harsh conditions of war, he seems to behave exactly in the way most voters expected him to, and his ratings and chances of re-election are rising.

In the common interests

To not support Ukraine today means to abandon all hopes for justice and democracy, to plunder basic human dignity, without which any struggle for socialism is impossible. And support for Ukraine means, in particular, the supply of weapons to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and territorial defense. Especially after the world saw the consequences of the Russian occupation in the city of Bucha near Kyiv. It is obvious that the more effective the Ukrainian defense, the fewer civilian casualties, fewer mass killings and tortures, and fewer mass burials in mass graves will happen. Even Russian governmental analysts are beginning to understand that it is impossible to capture and hold Ukraine without a significant increase of military involvement and that Ukrainians do not intend to submit to Moscow’s will.

Therefore, the sooner Moscow is decisively defeated in this war, the more lives will be saved, the better it will be in the end, even for the Russians themselves, because fewer crimes will mean more chances to reconcile and restore communication with the Russians someday.