Russian leftist outlines a proposal to end the Ukraine war.
Boris Kagarlitsky is a historian and sociologist who lives in Moscow. He is a prolific author of books on the history and current politics of the Soviet Union and Russia and of books on the rise of globalized capitalism. Fourteen of his books have been translated into English. The most recent book in English is ‘From Empires to Imperialism: The State and the Rise of Bourgeois Civilisation’ (Routledge, 2014). Kagarlitsky is chief editor of the Russian-language online journal Rabkor.ru (The Worker). He is the director of the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements, located in Moscow.
Cross-posted from Counterpunch
Among the international communist and left movements, including their Russian branch, there has been, throughout the entire period of the war in Ukraine, three conflicting assessments of the situation: unconditional support for Ukraine, a cowardly position of “critical” support with “reservations,” and unequivocal condemnation. However, even the generally correct anti-imperialist position of rejection of militarism suffers greatly from “pacifism” in the worst sense of the word. That is, this point of view, by and large, comes down to only one thesis – the immediate cessation of hostilities, without a specific plan, explaining by what methods this will be achieved, by what means, under what conditions, at what borders, etc.
And the social-chauvinists do not miss the opportunity to use this circumstance as an advantageous argument for themselves as justification for their conciliatory position: “And what do you propose? The war is already going on, this is a given, it is not possible to stop it, we must simply win and everything will end.”
Moreover, absurd and groundless accusations of “pro-NATO” and “pro-American” rhetoric, and even of support for NATO’s crimes, are also flying at the communist internationalists.
You think we don’t know about this!? We, whose senior comrades, and we ourselves, have consistently condemned the invasions of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yugoslavia for so many years, held protests against the bombing and interference in the affairs of sovereign countries and rallies of solidarity with the peoples of these countries. Do you think we would hide and deny the role of the “alliance” in the destruction of the USSR and the socialist bloc, in the catastrophic results of these processes? Let’s leave these accusations against us to the conscience of these moralizers, if anything is left of that at all. Their position is all the more hypocritical because they themselves are well aware of the character of the current Russian government, which has started and continues the hostilities. It pursues a policy in its own interests, which by no means identical to the interests of the people, otherwise all this bloodshed would never have been started. So it was with almost all the conflicts of recent years in which this government participated: Chechnya, Syria, and now Ukraine. They have sold weapons surreptitiously, and they trampled on agreements, all to promote the interests of various oligarchs. It doesn’t happen otherwise.
It is impossible to be against the government and at the same time support its policies; this is called “schizophrenia” or “split personality.” Let psychiatrists figure it out from there.
At the same time, unilateral calls to stop deliveries of NATO weapons to Ukraine “here and now,” without preconditions or demands, no matter who they come from, are naïve and have a slight shade of hypocrisy and irresponsibility. After all, no similar requirements have been presented to the opposite side.
In fact, the authors and heralds of this idea, perhaps unwittingly themselves, are playing along with only one of the parties in the conflict. In other words, if this requirement is implemented, the war will not stop but will continue, but only on terms more favorable to the Russian army. It will be temporarily suspended on the current “lines of contact” until Putin’s oligarchs gather strength for their new campaign, using the truce as a respite. And for the people of Russia, this automatically means the preservation of the political regime, the continuation of police repression, state terror, and the preparation of the authorities for a new, broader general mobilization. In other words, such a truce would be no less – or even greater – of a catastrophe for Russian society than a military defeat.
Let’s try to imagine a real plan that would actually work to end the confrontation, and not simply to extend the Putin oligarchy. It could consist of four main points:
1. Stop fighting on both sides;
2. Cessation of any supply of foreign weapons and ammunition to both Ukraine and Russia;
3. Abandonment by the Russian Armed Forces of the territory of Ukraine as of February 1, 2014 (“zero option”);
4. The UN and its peacekeeping forces are temporarily introduced to the territories left by the RF Armed Forces.
In fact, even some official propagandists are beginning to understand the need to move in this direction. For example, Margarita Simonyan, head of the Russia Today TV channel, proposed to hold referendums again (in other words, from the point of view of the authorities, she calls for a review of the new borders of the Russian Federation). It seems that in the fall of last year, the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, and the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics were entered into the Constitution of Russia. The Criminal Code even has a special article for such a case: “Art. 280.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Public calls for actions aimed at violations of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.”
If you believe the Kremlin propaganda, one of the mouthpieces of which is Simonyan herself, there have already been “referendums” in these regions, but now she is proposing to hold new ones. So then, you will admit that what happened before was a circus, and not a vote?
But here a fundamental point emerges: it is necessary to stop the bloodshed not only to correct the previous injustices, but also to prevent new ones. It won’t be easy or simple. And in order to stop the escalation of violence and repression from any side, an appropriate policy is needed, which needs to be thought out today.
In order to avoid clashes and outrages on both sides, it is proposed to create a “humanitarian corridor” in the territories left by the Russian troops for the unhindered exit of residents in both directions, and to temporarily deploy UN peacekeeping forces from among countries that are not directly or indirectly involved in the conflict.
Failure to comply with at least one point entails the continuation of the war with innumerable victims and suffering for Ukrainian and Russian citizens, a war that claims hundreds and thousands of lives every day. So let’s find out, looking at the reactions to this program, what is actually more important to the elites and governments – is it land and territory, saving face (in fact, saving power and capital), or is it people’s lives? Bring out the hysterics to the slaughterhouse, who themselves are in no hurry to leave for the front, or send their children and relatives there!
Everything has gone too far, Russian territory is being shelled (it was foolish to believe that this would not happen – usually in wars, in response to constant shelling, the other side also starts shooting back!), and threats of a nuclear apocalypse are heard. Yes, the chances of this scenario occurring are extremely small, but such rhetoric itself speaks of the seriousness of the current situation. Time does not wait!
The peoples are tired of war, they want peace, and therefore a plan is needed that will stop the bloodshed and create conditions for the mutual laying down of arms, without fear of monstrous consequences for Ukrainians and Russians.
The left must offer a program of an honest peace without territorial conquest or any further aggressive policy, with remuneration for all destruction, not from the pockets of the working people, but at the expense of those who unleashed this massacre. It cannot be ruled out that such a “peace plan” could bring the revolution in Russia closer, contribute to the awakening of class consciousness among the soldiers, to their desire for self-organization, and to an awareness of themselves as an independent force. The left is fundamentally in favor of finally saying its word to “His Majesty the Working Class,” the same class that is often thrown into a meat grinder against his will and desire. So that there are no “agreements” behind the back of the people, and at their expense, and the working people themselves ought to be the ones to stop the war. However, for the time being we have to be guided not by what we ultimately desire, but by the existing reality. And therefore, we need to take responsibility, take the first step, and begin the process that will lead to an end to the war, and lead the workers to victory in the struggle for their power, so that the defeat of the insane adventurist plans of the government of the Russian Federation does not turn into a defeat for the people and the country.
Translated by Dan Erdman
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