Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it was painfully apparent within certain circles of the West that there was a thorough lack of even a rudimentary education on what the Russian government is today. Some erstwhile leftists have even been seen praising it in a fashion that would make even Putin cringe. So, let’s make a few facts clear.
Putin is no socialist. His political party, United Russia, is a reactionary and far right, and it dominates the executive branch and the Duma (legislative). He is a classic authoritarian strongman with little tolerance for dissent.
What is interesting to note is that despite the UR being the dominant political party, communists have been gaining more sympathy in recent years and there is a marked longing for the days of the USSR where at least in its hay day most Russians had reliable work, good educational opportunities, housing, paid holidays and a decent living standard. Today, the poverty rate has been rising steadily while population declines, leaving a lot of elderly Russians in a bad state. And, like the United States, powerful and wealthy oligarchs run the economy to the benefit of their coffers.
So, it is laughable that there are some people who identify as left who cannot stop themselves from praising Putin as an “anti-imperialist” and thinking he is their comrade. Putin, himself, would laugh at such idiocy.
It is indeed quite sad that there are some amongst the Western left who seem confused about how to react to the invasion of Ukraine. This is unsurprising since few of them knew how to express solidarity with the Syrian people and build an international antiwar movement, instead preferring to come to the defense of the oppressive government that they lived under simply because it was the supposed enemy of Washington. But if there is one thing this situation has shown, it is that ordinary Russian people are putting those Western leftists to shame.
Thousands have taken to the streets across Russia to denounce Putin’s invasion, and over a thousand have been arrested. None of them seem to have a problem with equivocation when it comes to war or their government’s criminality. Sadly, the same cannot be said for many on the Western left who are wringing their hands trying to find ways to defend Putin.
Without a doubt, Putin is not a 21st century Hitler as some Western propaganda outlets have inferred, and this is not World War II. We should reject such idiotic and shallow correlations. But he has invaded a sovereign country, and one that has been historically colonized by Russia in the past. One would think that would enough for condemnation. Not so, to these leftists, many of whom have swallowed the rubbish of highly paid sock puppets on the Trumpenleft.
Being antiwar is not something we can afford to equivocate on. It is either a core principle, or else it is meaningless. Opposing Russian militarism and imperialism is as important as opposing American militarism and imperialism. Of course, the solution to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not US or NATO military intervention. The US military and NATO (along with their nefarious agencies) have a long list of war crimes, most of which they have never had to answer for in any way that matters. Lest we forget the use of white phosphorus in Iraq? Carpet bombing of South Asia? Agent Orange? Supporting and training death squads in Central America? Toppling democratically elected governments in Iran and Chile? Assassinations of political rivals like Lumumba? Torture in prisons like Abu Ghraib? Or the recent “mistake” of a drone strike in Kabul which killed many members of one family, including children?
But even though the US military has committed countless war crimes and NATO’s expansion has exacerbated the situation, Russia is not some kind of innocent victim. Its imperial aspirations are historic and no less horrendous than any other kind of imperialism, whether it be American, British or Chinese. Taking a stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in no way diminishes a stand against American invasions, meddling or covert actions in Somalia, Yemen, Cuba and dozens of other places.
If you claim to be on the left and cannot grasp this, then I suggest you step out of the way. Because the imperative now is to join in solidarity with our antiwar allies in Russia. Not to spout empty theoretics in the defense of some government or state actor simply because that actor happens to be the enemy of the American Empire.
These battles are between the Great Imperial Houses of the 21st century vying for geopolitical dominance on the stage of a world whose biosphere is dying. And it will be ordinary people, and untold species, who are counted (or not) in the casualties.
Remember that last point, because it is what matters the most to everyone of us, no matter where we live.
Our task is to oppose them all.