Resolve tested in Ukraine

Ukrainians face a foe prepared to wait out their resistance. Armament and personnel shortages, plus home front restrictions on human rights, are taking their toll. But the people’s determination to fight for their national identity is strong.

A Ukrainian soldier near the front lines in the Donetsk Region. PHOTO: Alina Smutko / Reuters
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Entering the third year of war, Ukrainians remain determined to preserve their independence despite mounting difficulties. The military, short on weapons and soldiers, is mired in defensive trench warfare. At home, working-class discontent spreads as the government restricts labor rights and civil liberties.

Meanwhile, Putin’s bid to take over Ukraine benefits from the world’s attention shifting to the Middle East.

Daunting challenges

In August 2023, The New York Times reported a toll of 500,000 Ukrainians and Russians killed or maimed. Ten million Ukrainians are displaced. Still, the war drags on with no victory in sight.

MAGA Republicans who are sabotaging the intended $60 billion arms package for Kyiv clearly have blood on their hands. Some agree with Putin’s ultra-right Christian nationalism. Others align with Trump’s (selective) isolationism or want to spend funds instead on countering China.

On the other hand, U.S. military intervention never stems from humanitarian motives. Biden’s support for Ukraine has everything to do with a callous determination of what benefits U.S. imperialism in its rivalry with states like Russia and China. And obvious to all is the White House hypocrisy, which backs Israel’s genocide of Gazans while opposing Putin’s assault on Ukraine.

European governments are urging the U.S. to provide aid. They fear that a victorious Putin could bring war to their doorstep. In February, the European Union appropriated 50 billion euros ($54 billion) to the war effort, but it is not enough to meet the need.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s working class is growing disgruntled as state policies target their rights. Under the pretext of reining in corruption, President Zelenskyy’s administration is attacking labor. The parliament, which is dominated by his party, has cut social benefits, deregulated labor relations, and restricted the power of unions.

Zelenskyy is also pushing unpopular legislation to lower the draft age and impose harsh penalties on dodgers. This increases resentment because those with money and privilege can avoid conscription.

At the start of the war, dissidence in Russia, especially from groups like Feminist Antiwar Resistance, buoyed Ukrainians. But, due to severe repression, the anti-war movement has faded. One million Russians opposed to Putin’s invasion and tyranny have left the country, the largest exodus since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

International solidarity is crucial

Despite everything, Ukrainians are committed to fighting for their survival and their rights. Surveys show that almost without exception, people oppose a ceasefire and negotiations, saying that Russia cannot be trusted.

Alona Liasheva, a co-editor of the progressive Ukrainian publication Commons: Journal of Social Criticism, reports that the Left is active and growing. Despite the martial law that bans demonstrations and strikes, protest happens. She cited students staging rallies against university closures. Nurses and other workers also formed new unions.

In Russia, heavy losses pose a challenge for replacing soldiers and equipment. Following an announcement of a likely new mobilization, fire bombings at recruitment centers increased. The number of soldiers seeking help to desert has doubled, and women are bravely demanding the return of drafted family members in an emerging grass-roots movement. (See Resistance lives in Russia.)

In the end, victory for Ukraine depends on the morale and fighting capacity of the Ukrainian and Russian working classes. Solidarity from abroad is vital to maintain both. Says Liasheva:

“The international left can make a material difference in whether we are able to win or lose. The more solidarity with us, the more humanitarian aid, the more support for our unions, and the more support for our left will strengthen our capacity to resist Russian imperialism and fight for a progressive future in Ukraine and indeed in all of Eastern Europe.”

The stakes are high. A win for Ukraine would strengthen workers around the world in their confrontations with imperialisms new and old. Readers can help by joining the Ukraine Solidarity Network. You can be part of taking action to build moral, political, and material support for the people of Ukraine.

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