All of my sympathy is with the Ukrainian people — those trapped in besieged cities, those displaced, and those fighting to defend their homes. It’s been encouraging to see the immediate and nearly universal condemnation of the Russian aggression, and especially the anti-war sentiment expressed by some Russian people. (Though the largest anti-war protests in history were those against the US invasion of Iraq, including hundreds of thousands of protesters in American cities, and they did absolutely nothing to stop that brutal war so I’m afraid a few thousand protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg is not going to stop Putin’s expansionism. I hope Russian anti-war activists prioritize avoiding arrest over empty symbolic gestures.)
Of course I know much of the condemnation of Russia coming from Americans is from hypocrites who can’t recognize the violence of their own military-heavy society or from bloodthirsty hawks and profiteers who are actually hoping for US involvement in another war. But one refreshing aspect of the discourse has been a notable lack of pseudo-leftist “anti-imperialists” defending Russian imperialism. I’m sure I could go find someone saying the invasion is justified by NATO expansion or whatever, but normally I can’t avoid those takes online. I don’t know if it is just that I’ve successfully isolated myself in an anti-authoritarian bubble of the internet or if Putin’s tyranny and aggression is even too much for the usual gaggle of campists and tank apologists.
Other than expose the hypocrisy of American patriots who have no legs to stand on after what their country did to Iraq in such recent memory, the current crises has made plain the degree to which Western chauvinism and racism underlies media coverage and European migration controls. We’re supposed to be outraged not that a war is happening, but that a war is happening in Europe (see “The Ukraine invasion is nothing compared to Iraq”). When a white, European population is displaced, suddenly refugees are welcome everywhere, even at the borders controlled by outspoken nationalists and xenophobes like Hungary’s Orban. Moustafa Bayoumi has a good comment on that and the racist coverage of the Ukranian crisis in The Guardian: They are ‘civilised’ and ‘look like us’: the racist coverage of Ukraine. (See also: People of colour fleeing Ukraine attacked by Polish nationalists.)
CrimethInc has good background information on the conflict for English speakers, including interviews with both Russian and Ukranian anarchists:
The anti-war movement in Russia has been more significant than I expected. According to the BBC almost 15,000 anti-war protesters have been arrested by March 15. I can’t find more up-to-date figures, but there is a good Wikipedia entry tracking updates: 2022 anti-war protests in Russia.
I read and reviewed Garry Kasparov’s book Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped. As I wrote, “The prescient introduction, written after Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine, reads like it could have been written today. The rest of the book reads like a pro-war screed by an American neoconservative.” But his concluding paragraphs are worth quoting again:
And so my last policy recommendation is to listen to the dissidents, even if you do not like what they have to say. They are the ones who reveal to us the dark realities of our societies, the realities that most of us have the luxury to turn away from. […] Every society has its dissidents, not just dictatorships. They speak for the disenfranchised, the ignored, and the persecuted. Listen to them now, because they speak of what is to come.
CrimethInc continues to provide good English-language commentary on the Ukraine war including voices from both Ukraine and Russia. Here’s an excerpt from The Ex-Worker #83: Anti-War Resistance in Russia:
A third option exists in addition to NATO and Putin: internationalism from below. Today, a revolutionary internationalism must call on people everywhere to defend the popular resistance in Ukraine, just as it should call upon them to support the Syrian local councils, the resistance committees in Sudan, the territorial assemblies in Chile, the roundabouts of the Yellow Vests, and the Palestinian intifada.
Other libertarian/socialist groups have also issued good statements. The EZLN’s communiqué (and companion analysis) demonstrates how clearly the Zapatistas see imperial and state propaganda for what it is:
During the multinational invasion of Iraq (almost 19 years ago), with the US army at the head, there were mobilizations around the world against that war. No one in their right mind thought that opposing the invasion was siding with Saddam Hussein. Now it’s a similar situation, although not the same. Neither Zelensky nor Putin! Stop the war!
The [Citations Needed] podcast did a great summary a couple of weeks ago on The Worst US Media Reactions to Russia’s Ukraine Invasion
I’ve recently watched several documentaries about the 2013-2014 events in Ukraine and wrote some mini-reviews: Ukraine Documentaries
Andrew Murray, of the UK’s Stop the War Coalition, wrote a good op-ed last week. The Iraq War Exposes the West’s Ukraine Hypocrisy:
Finally, an important difference. When the bombardment hit Baghdad we were invited by the media and politicians to be awestruck by US military power. Today, we are supposed to be horrified by Russian-wrought destruction. And in Ukraine, the civilian dead are being counted.